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Can Brain Neuroplasticity Help Anxiety Disorders?

By Edited Nov 28, 2016 1 0

Although as human beings we know very little about how the brain actually works, scientists have been able to discover that we can alter the way our brains function so that we can get rid of learned behavior. This reprogramming is what is referred to as brain neuroplasticity.

Also known as cortical re-mapping, it has turned out to be very significant in treating anxiety disorders. We will come to that in a bit, but before we do, let us talk a bit more about brain neuroplasticity.

The term literally refers to the brain as being plastic, or being malleable. From birth, we learn all the time. The learning that we get each day affects our behavior. If, for example, a child lives in a home where they are exposed to math, they will grow up and most likely acquire good math skills. They were not born with the skills, but because of exposure, the brain altered itself to accommodate a new skill. Now take that to mean any kind of new behavior that you acquire. It will only take root once the brain has altered itself to accommodate it, and part of this taking root is behavioral change.

The way the brain is made, it changes all the time so that even as we grow old, we are able to learn new things. This is not affected by genetics or heritage, but only by environment. The more stimulating your environment is the more you are going to learn. Learning through alteration of the brain happens to all of us.

When it comes to anxiety disorders, many behavioral therapists agree that they come about as a result of acquired behavior. It may sound like it has a negative connotation; like the sufferer is being blamed for "acquiring" the behavior, but that is not the case. It means that there was a repetitive action, either consciously or subconsciously that went on for so long, that the brain was eventually altered.

With continued exposure, the brain's neural connections eventually connect differently so that we are now reacting differently than we would previously.

If behavior can be learned, it follows that it can be unlearned. Unlearning is not so much about removing the previous learning that was there, but brain neuroplasticity works to instill new learning that will override the old one. It will be a process much like the initial one that was used to learn the negative behavior; say reacting to a situation by getting a panic attack, but this time, the brain is taught to react in a more positive manner. Your brain learns that when faced with the threatening situation, it can immediately switch to think of something else, that it should instruct the body to take deep breaths and to calm down for example.

Working with a therapist, a person who has anxiety disorders has a good chance of getting better by unlearning all their "triggers." They will no longer see them as triggers; therefore, what would previously cause one to have anxiety, or even panic attacks would lose its affect. You will find that you are more able to confront your previous fearful situations without issue.

Needless to say that it is a deep and complex subject and this is just an introduction, but what you can do is start to educate yourself further on how brain neuroplasticity works, and how it can help you in particular.

Talk to your therapist as well, because in addition to other therapy and medications that they may be offering you, this could be an excellent way to get rid of your anxiety disorder forever.

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