Anxiety is a persistent feeling of dread, impending disaster, tension, apprehension, and persistent worry about every day situations. Anxious people are primarily preoccupied with apprehension about the “future.” They dwell on the “What ifs.” “What if ‘x’ happens? What will I do?” Worry is "picturing negative outcomes." Given a stressful situation one person will perceive it as dangerous and overwhelming. Another person may perceive the same stress as being harmless. Perception is everything.Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders among adults, affecting 40 million adults in the United States.
There are three main pathways that lead to anxiety: The biochemistry path, the fight-or-flight pathway, and the EveryDay Stressors Pathway.
This graphic is a comprehensive cause-and-effect explanation of anxiety.
BIOCHEMICAL PATHWAY SUMMARY:
The Biochemistry path, which is the right side of the Anxiety Pathways Graphic, deals with “Long-Term Anxiety Susceptibility” to anxiety. Biochemical pathways have to do with Amino Acid and neurotransmitter abnormalities. This biochemistry does not change quickly. It’s a reflection of the state of your neurotransmitters over a 3-month period.
This pathway starts with: 1. an Unhealthy Diet, 2. and Digestive problems like poor digestion and malabsorption, which leads to 3. Disturbances in Amino Acid Chemistry, which leads to 4. and Neurotransmitter abnormalities. 5. These biochemical abnormalities can create a steady state of anxiety. The biochemical pathway is entirely physiological, not psychological.
LAB WORK: Lab work for the Biochemistry Pathway includes: amino acid analysis, urine organic acids, neurotransmitter testing, and vitamin and mineral cofactors required for this biochemistry. Here are some of those biochemistry issues.
NEUROTRANSMITTER PRECURSORS IN ANXIETY
Low Serotonin (whose precursor is the amino acid, L-tryptophan) can cause anxiety.
Low GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), whose main precursor is the amino acid L-glutamine. GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) is our natural “valium.” Low GABA causes anxiety. GABA can be supplemented directly.
Glutamate excess causes anxiety.
Low Dopamine (whose precursors are the amino acids L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine) can cause anxiety.
Elevated Norepinephrine and Epinephrine are associated with anxiety and panic disorders. However, the role of norepinephrine in anxiety is not yet settled.
Three other amino acids lower anxiety — taurine, glycine, and l-theanine.
THE FIGHT-FLIGHT-FREEZE PATHWAY
Panic attacks are caused by a revved up sympathetic nervous system, which is the final step in the fight-flight-freeze pathway. This pathway starts with a childhood of abuse, neglect, or serious childhood illness.
These early life challenges can give rise to Negative Core Beliefs. Certain words and actions can lead to the core belief that the world is a dangerous place. Those messages include: “The world is a dangerous place.” “It’s not okay or safe to express emotion.” “You’ll never be good enough.” “It’s not okay to have needs.” “Nothing you do is good enough.” “You’ll never amount to anything.”
These negative core beliefs give rise to an anxiety-prone personality, which is characterized by: 1) overestimating how powerful the danger is, 2) underestimating our ability to deal with or manage that danger, and 3) difficulty in handling uncertainty.
When this person is triggered, fight-or-flight physiology can be turned on. When fight-or-flight is massively revved up, a person can experience agitation, and a racing, pounding heart. These are symptoms identical to panic attacks.
EVERYDAY STRESSORS PATHWAY
Not all stress comes from childhood. We all face everyday stressors like deadlines, or an office manager who handles 50 ro 100 phone calls a day. The chronic stream of Everyday Stressors can set off low-grade fight-or-flight physiology. The adrenal glands are part of this, and they respond to chronic fight-or-flight physiology by releasing high amounts of cortisol.
Cortisol disturbs intestinal functioning, giving rise to malabsorption and dysbiosis. We are now back on the right side of the graphic, the Biochemistry side.
ANXIETY IS CAUSED BY DISTURBANCES IN THE BIOCHEMISTRY PATHWAY, THE FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT PATHWAY, AND THE EVERYDAY STRESSORS PATHWAY.
Disturbances in amino acids and neurotransmitters are part of the biochemistry pathway and this is where most of my Physical Treatments takes place.
Psychotherapy is not going to improve biochemistry, but there are modalities that can treat different parts of the fight-or-flight pathway. Cognitive behavioral therapy and interactive guided imagery can help shift an anxiety-prone personality.
EMDR and Somatic Experiencing are modalities that help balance the autonomic nervous system, decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system and increasing activity of the parasympathetic nervous system.
The amino acid Glycine can stop panic attacks, the final step in fight-or-flight physiology.
Anxiety is complex. It took me 3 years of research and planning to produce the AMINO ACID THERAPY FOR ANXIETY video.
Anxiety is not simply a genetic disorder or a problem with brain chemistry. This is a very brief outline. The YouTube video (SEE ABOVE) goes into great detail about the 3 pathways. - David Gersten, M.D.