What happens in the brain?
When you experience anxiety or panic, there are several changes that occur in your brain. The amygdala, which is responsible for detecting threats and triggering the fight-or-flight response, becomes activated. This leads to the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare your body for action.
At the same time, the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for rational decision-making and impulse control, becomes less active. This can make it harder for you to think clearly and make rational decisions when you're feeling anxious or panicked.
The combination of these changes can cause a range of physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and muscle tension. You may also experience cognitive symptoms, such as racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, and feeling like you're in a fog.
Over time, repeated experiences of anxiety or panic can lead to changes in the brain's structure and function. Chronic anxiety has been associated with reductions in the size of the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory and learning, and alterations in the activity of the amygdala and prefrontal cortex.
Fortunately, there are many effective treatments for anxiety and panic, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, and mindfulness-based interventions. These treatments can help to reduce symptoms and improve overall functioning, and may also help to reverse some of the changes that occur in the brain due to chronic anxiety.