Anxiety and the Brain, Part 9: Useful Examples of Amygdala-based Anxiety.

The book I have been referencing for the Anxiety and the Brain series (Rewire Your Anxious Brain) has some examples of how anxiety can affect someone, and why amygdala-based anxiety does not always make logical sense.

The Anxious Teddy Bear:

A lady was presenting a teddy bear to her grandson, who was running happily toward her.  Then he suddenly fell and split his lip open on the driveway.

Now he experiences amygdala-based anxiety whenever he sees a teddy bear.  Because the perfectly harmless teddy bear was associated with the pain of the injury, the teddy bear became a trigger, leading to a fear of teddy bears.

The Vietnam Veteran:

Vietnam 2

A Vietnam veteran suffered from PTSD; he used to experience panic attacks but then didn’t have any for many years.  Suddenly, he started having a panic attack each morning for no apparent reason.

He realised that his panic was closely associated to showering.

He soon realised that his wife had switched to the same brand of soap that he’d used in Vietnam.  The smell of the soap was activating an amygdala response and creating panic attacks.

Knowing the language of the amygdala gave him a new understanding that helped him see that he wasn’t going crazy and that the PTSD was not starting to take over his life again.  It was helpful even though it didn’t cure his anxiety because he still reacted when he smelt the soap.

Despite knowing that the soap was not dangerous was not enough to put an end to his morning panic, he had to switch to another brand.

More than Just a Song:

Record - Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

A lady was sexually assaulted while a specific Rolling Stones song was playing.  After the assault, whenever she heard the song she felt intense anxiety.

Obviously the song had nothing to do with the assault, it was just a coincidence that it was playing when the assault occurred.

The lady’s amygdala responded to the association between the song and the assault, an extremely negative event.

Referenced: Rewire Your Anxious Brain – how to use the neuroscience of fear to end anxiety, panic & worry.  By Catherine M. Pittman, PhD & Elizabeth M. Karle, MLIS

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