How Anxiety Affects Your Thinking


When you get anxiety it can cause all of your rational thinking to go out the window. You start to convince yourself that the worst is happening. Have you ever wondered why that is?

Anxiety can weaken the connection between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex in your brain. Normally, the prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain that kicks in and helps rationalize situations and come up with logical responses. It is the problem solver. And when you have anxiety, once the amygdala (the part of your brain that deals with emotions and moods) sends a danger alert to your prefrontal cortex, the connection is not as strong as it would be in a non-anxious brain. So, it leads to irrational thoughts.

When you consistently deal with anxiety, your amygdala actually gets larger. It notices all potential dangers and when it does, it sends a signal to the hypothalamus (the fight or flight response we have). Since it is larger in people with anxiety, it can also be hypersensitive. It can send "false alarms" which cause you to believe there are threats, even in non-threatening situations.

While your body is being sent into fight or flight mode, your central nervous system is filled with adrenaline and cortisol hormones by your brain. They alert your body that something is about to happen. In doing so, your reflexes become faster and your senses are heightened. When these stress hormones are excessively used, your base level of anxiety can increase. Meaning if you have mild anxiety, it can cause you to have moderate anxiety and so on.

Recognizing these things are so important. When you understand the logic behind it and how it works, it can become easier for you to recognize as it is happening. When you are becoming anxious, understand that your brain and your nervous system are doing these things, and it can help you rationalize why you are reacting this way. Once you can rationalize it, you will be able to redirect your thoughts.