The Neurophysiology of Worry

That’s where your brain is-the most important organ in the body. The tendency to worry too much is usually inherited. In this world, there is a lot to worry about-we could all worry constantly… and people with GAD do just that!
Worriers overproduce serotonin, a brain transmitter that functions as a modulater in the brain. Serotonin provides “brightness,” just as a TV or computer has a brightness control for the screen. The brain is like a complex computer system where everything is interconnected. High Serotonin may cause an increase in norepinephrine, another brain modulater that is like the “contrast” control. Norepinephrine levels go up with arousal which leads to increased vigilance.
Norepinephrine also stimulates the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. As a result, growth hormone and immune function are reduced.
Brain levels of dopamine, which is the motivation and focus system of the brain, go down during times of acute chronic stress.
These brain transmitter changes, as shown on Chart 2 to the right, cause multiple changes in the body and prepare us for “fight or flight.” In today’s complex, demanding, but often sedentary world, the excessive or prolonged physical changes in the body can cause physical illnesses.
The body becomes like an automobile that is accelerated all day, but only in neutral or first gear. Wear and tear is the ultimate result?especially for the excessive worriers.

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