Why do some people suffer from moderate to severe anxiety, and others don’t? People who have experienced trauma or extreme stress during childhood may be more prone to anxiety in adulthood. There are also genes that play a part in influencing levels of brain chemicals including serotonin and norepinephrine, which are believed to be linked to anxiety and depression. Says Dr. Brian Brennan, associate director for translational neuroscience at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., “There are a lot of questions but not a lot of definitive answers.”
Katie Linn is a 29 year old who works at the National Alliance on Mental Illness in New York City as a youth and programs coordinator. She takes Lexapro, an SSRI for her anxiety. While she has had mild anxiety for most of her life, she had a panic attack after her first year of college. Linn has said she “suffered in silence” for about 6 years before getting help. Initially, she had problems getting her medication dosage right, but after awhile she began to feel better. She also started counseling. “What the medication did was level out my emotional roller coaster, but it didn’t solve any problems. And that’s where therapy came in. Recovery for me wouldn’t have been possible without both.” Linn underwent cognitive behavioral therapy – which is usually short-term, lasting about 20 sessions. It can help the person identify situations that may be causing problems, begin to look at thinking patterns and learn how to respond to problems more effectively. “Therapy is really helping the patient to deal more appropriately with normal daily life stresses, and not make them a big thing,” says Dr.Karl Rickels, professor of human behavior and reproduction at the University of Pennyslvania.
Brain imaging studies have shown that physiological changes happen in the brains of people who have gone through cognitive behavioral therapy. Dr. Rebecca Gladding, a psychiatrist at UCLA says the amygdala (the almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brave’s temporal lobe) starts to calm down, and the lateral prefrontal cortex becomes more active. “The good parts are lighting up and being more active, and others are quieting,” she says……. Los Angeles Times 4/5/13