Anxiety Diagnosis

“I got diagnosed.” I’ve had a a few patients tell me this about an anxiety disorder. They own the diagnosis. “My diagnosis,” almost like it is something that they have to wear.

Lets be clear. Anxiety is not like asthma or diabetes. In fact, there is nothing wrong with your body or brain. You are working perfectly normally. It is just that your brain has learned to over react. Let me explain.

Anxiety is basically a fear response and you become way more responsive if you are stressed or if there is an accumulation of distressing things happening in your life. In a way your brain is really smart in that it learns very quickly what to react to. But it is also not very smart in that it does not distinguish very well between what is past and what is present, what is a movie and what is real life, what is a dream or imaginary and what is reality. The limbic system, the part of your brain that gets afraid, makes none of these distinctions. The part of your brain that makes these distinctions, the frontal lobe, shuts down when you get afraid.

There isn’t any medicine that treats anxiety disorders. Medications simply control the symptoms and can make treatment more difficult. The treatment is to retrain your brain how to react in a systematic way, and dealing with your emotional response to the stress in your life.