Anxiety, Depression & The Brain.
Updated: Nov 25, 2019
There are (roughly)100 billion neurons in the average human brain… and up until recently we thought that by the end of our childhood those neurons (and their all-important connections) stopped developing...
But recent brain research has shown us that the brain actually possesses a remarkable capacity to reorganize pathways, create new connections and in some cases, even create new neurons… throughout our lives. Referred to as “neuroplasticity”, it means we can change the way we think about things and amazingly… rewire our anxious & depressed brain for a happier, balanced outlook!
My interest in all this research is driven by the fact that most people who come to see me, come because they are fed up with feeling Stressed, Anxious and Depressed (The S.A.D’s). If we can use neuroplasticity to our advantage by changing the way our brains are wired to evaluate things, we change the negative pathways our brain has got in the nasty habit of reacting to. In short we can respond in a better way…a way that lets us see a solution rather than a problem. In achieving this change in perspective, we gain that amazing resource we call “Resilience” - the ability to bounce back!
Is My Brain Wired To Feel Anxious?
Yes! If you’ve read some of my other Blog posts, you’ll appreciate that anxiety is a natural defence system that keeps us safe. It’s healthy and normal….but sometimes, because of life experiences (and in some uncommon cases, genetics) some brains are more prone to feeling anxious than others.
Here again neuroplasticity - rewiring - comes into play - According to Canadian scientist Donald Hebb, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” So, if your thoughts continually focus on worrying and self-criticism, there’s a strong chance that you’ll develop neural networks in the brain that reinforce that negative sense of self. It’s another reason why early treatment for anxiety is so successful.
So…How Do I Change My Brain?
Well, actually there are a couple of ways!
Firstly, all brain change is a result of “learning by experience” - combining experience and memory. Here the conscious (doing & thinking mind) links to a feeling (in the subconscious) to form an impression (or memory). All memories and beliefs are created this way. As we develop, we try and repeat experiences that leave positive impressions (leave us feeling positive) and avoid “bad experiences”. It’s the combination of the thought & the feeling (conscious & subconscious) that creates the powerful impression in our memory.
Sounds simple! Do “good” things - Avoid doing “bad” things!
But…there’s always the chance of this combination giving us strange results…sometimes “bad” things can just happen to us when we least expect it and leave us damaged, with exaggerated fears..fear of heights, tunnels, spiders…and a whole host of anxieties and phobias (and these are just the common ones!)
Sometimes it isn’t just one traumatic thing, but a lot of small stresses that ultimately overwhelm us!
One solution is “conditioning”, a form of desensitisation based on experiencing the anxiety triggering circumstance in a controlled way that the conscious and the subconscious minds can agree is “safe”. Like an inoculation, with each exposure, the mind becomes more accustomed until it no longer responds with anxiety. This can take some considerable time and has some inherent risks (one of which is further hard wiring the anxiety!), but done well, has very positive results.
The second option is fast, gentle, effective and deals with anxiety at it’s root cause. Because anxiety is the result of a (conscious) Thought inappropriately linked to a (subconscious) Feeling, we can use techniques to identify the problem link and replace it with a more accurate and healthy one.
Referred to as “Bridging” therapy, the process involves deep relaxation and guided visualisation in which the subconscious mind is accessed, the problem “feeling” identified and a new and better link (bridge) is established. By resolving the internal conflict - building a better connection between thoughts and feelings - we resolve the underlying cause of the anxiety and it ….disappears!
Best of all, this process can be achieved in just a couple of weeks and in as few as 3 sessions with a therapist.
And if you want to know how & why anxiety leads to depression, read some of my other blog articles here.
Need Help & Want to know more?
If you would like to know more about how you can resolve depression, anxiety and a wide range of negative thoughts, behaviours and physical symptoms - quickly, gently and permanently in as few as 3 sessions, visit www.pstbythesea.com