If you suffer from anxiety or have a loved one who deals with it, you probably wonder if there is a cure for anxiety and anxiety “attacks”. Usually cures happen once scientists understand the root cause of a condition. There has been plenty of studies to determine different triggers for anxiety “attacks”, such as stress, fear, even certain foods. But avoiding triggers is not the same as a cure. Medication is not a cure. Most medications simply suppress emotional responses. Have doctors discovered how anxiety originates and can it now possibly be cured?
Some doctors believe that it is a result of early childhood conditioning. When a child is exposed to an emotionally traumatic even when very young, just a single traumatic event, it can affect their brain development. They can begin a pattern of worrying, replaying the traumatic event repeatedly in their mind’s eye. They worry if such a terrible thing could happen again. Such worry can preoccupy their thoughts, dominating them above all other thoughts. Soon, their emotions become conditioned to respond and reason in a pattern with worry as the dominant underlying emotion. This affects their logic as they consider daily decisions.
What are some obvious and not-so-obvious traumatic events or environments that can lead to a child developing chronic anxiety?
• Divorce of parents
• Frequent relocating and changing schools, thus the anxiety of making new friends
• Hostile home environment where fights frequently take place
• Parents with job instability
• Car accident
• Loss of a loved one
• Parent who is alcoholic or drug addicted
Once common thread in almost all childhood trauma is that they all result in the child being in an environment, on a consistent basis, that is unpredictable thus causes them to feel unsafe. They are often left wondering what will happen tomorrow. Security and stability are not the hallmarks of their emotional life.
By consistently living in an unstable lifestyle, the biology, as well as the psychology, of the child is damaged. Fear becomes the dominant unconscious emotion guiding decisions. The child is constantly looking for ways in which to exercise some form of control over their own lives and protect themselves from unknown stressors they are certain will eventually occur. Some conditions that can manifest as a result of the subconscious being dominated by feelings of fear and desires for control:
• Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
• Eating Disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
Anxiety is then not so much an emotional disorder, but, rather, a biological response within the body as a result of childhood trauma. The body is trying to heal itself. It is trying to adapt to what is perceived as a hostile environment in order to survive. And for someone who develops anxiety disorders, this all takes place within the brain’s adrenal medulla.
As a person begins to feel overwhelmed the adrenal medulla moves into action. It increases production of stress hormones like dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These huge spikes of hormones are responsible for the reactions of “fight or flight”. All of that energy has to go somewhere. For people suffering OCD that may be when they begin exhibiting compulsive behaviors, such as knocking on walls in specific patterns. Someone else may begin chewing their nails. Another could even go so far as to cut themselves or self-harm in another way, the feeling of pain being a way to release the energy build up.
After the episode of excess energy has passed, the adrenal medulla must heal itself from such a draining event. Suddenly the person feels very fatigued. For people who suffer from chronic anxiety, these patterns of extreme anxiety followed up by the need for the brain to rest can appear as chronic fatigue syndrome. They do not make the connection that their fatigue is related to their anxiety attacks. They just feel tire all the time. Because they are under the misconception that anxiety disorders are emotional conditions, they may then believe they also suffer from the emotional disorder of depression and attribute their fatigue to that. However, what they are really experiencing is adrenal fatigue.
The good news about all of this is that once a person is aware of the biology involved, they can then begin the process of reconditioning their brain. They can actively involve themselves in specific brain “exercises” to re-train their thought patterns and automatic emotional responses. So, anxiety can actually be cured. But it requires commitment and consistency. One of the best brain exercises to perform is daily meditation.
During meditation that is specifically being used as a transformative practice for reconditioning the brain to no longer be controlled by anxiety responses, it is important to have a focal tool. It needs to be a focal tool that can be carried around with you, such as a small stone. By training the brain to associate the focal tool with biological responses of meditation, anxiety can be controlled even when the opportunity to stop and meditate is not practical. The brain becomes conditioned to anticipate the calming activity of meditation when it focuses on the stone. So, all a person need do when in public is take the stone out and look at it for a few moments. Perhaps all it takes is simply to feel it within your hand.
By consistently practicing meditative techniques and daily keeping the calm brain, eventually the brain will heal. Once the brain heals, anxiety can then, indeed, be considered as cured.