About Anxiety
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The Biochemistry of Anxiety

Victoria LeBlanc, MS, LCPC
The Biochemistry of Anxiety

Anxiety may be a difficult disorder to live with, but it's also a fascinating one. Anxiety can be caused by life experiences, by the chemicals in your brain, or by both. Regardless of the cause of your anxiety, it is treatable.

The neurotransmitters in your brain are affected by anxiety. In this article, we'll give an introduction to the biochemistry of anxiety, and what that means for treatment.

Anxiety Affects Biochemistry and Vice Versa

When we talk about the biochemistry of anxiety, it can give the impression that your anxiety isn't under your control. That could not be further from the truth. Your life experiences, emotions, and stress can actually change your neurotransmitters, just as neurotransmitters can affect your mood and anxiety. 

In fact, studies have shown that even if you were born with low neurotransmitter levels, there is a great deal of evidence that effective coping strategies can increase those neurotransmitters even though the levels were created biologically. It's the same reason that those whose life experience caused anxiety can be treated with medications that affect neurotransmitter levels. The two combine and contribute to each other, so even exploring the biochemistry of anxiety shouldn't cause you to feel as though your anxiety is beyond your control.

The Basics of Anxiety Biochemistry

The biochemistry of anxiety is complex and vast. Studies have shown that nearly every type of neurotransmitter and hormone can play some role in anxiety, as can anything that reduces blood flow to the brain (like dehydration). Anxiety, in many ways, is simply your body's reaction to brain stress. 

To give you an idea of how anxiety interacts with the brain, let's look at some of the body's chemicals and how they seem to contribute to anxiety disorders:

This is just a basic introduction to the biochemistry of anxiety. But the reality is that nearly every hormone and every neurotransmitter can potentially cause anxiety, simply because anxiety is often a warning sign that your brain gives you indicating that something is wrong.

What To Do About Anxiety and Body Chemicals

There are a few hormones/neurotransmitters that would require some type of medical attention. Thyroid hormone is the best example, as this hormone needs to be regulated in order to prevent anxiety. While medication can be prescribed to address the vast majority of neurotransmitters, the majority of anxiety disorders can be improved through basic mental health treatments.

Article Resources


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  5. MRC Clinical Science Centre/ICS Faculty of Medicine, Imperial Coll. (2016). Surprise Role for Dopamine in Social Interplay  
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