How Does Worrying Affect the Brain?

Stress, anxiety, permanent tiredness, lack of energy, pessimism … The way the concern affects the brain is toxic, we push all our emotional resources to the limit until we experience a constant threat.

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The way in which worry affects the brain can be summed up in one word: toxic. Thus, and although this psychological reality is no more than a natural emotion when we perceive a threat, in reality, many of our concerns are unfounded and even obsessive, leading us to states of great exhaustion in which we lose energy, courage and all glimpses of motivation.

Something that we know well from a psychological point of view is that the effects of worrying too much can be even more dangerous than what really worries us. It seems like a play on words, but it really goes beyond that. When we derive in those states in which stress intensifies and distorts even the smallest detail, everything ends up out of control, we make the worst decisions and the emotional discomfort intensifies.

An example, the more we obsess over our poor quality of sleep, the more insomnia we will suffer. The more we worry about showing ourselves to be effective and perfect in our job, the more failures we will commit. Moreover, if we worry too much that our partner stops loving us, we will create situations in which the other person feels more pressured and uncomfortable.

Thus, the more pressure we provoke to our mind, the worse our brain will respond. We will exhaust all its resources, more memory failures we will have and more exhausted we will feel. The list of effects associated with excessive worry is immense, due to the biology of stress. Let’s see more data below.

“Every morning has two handles, we can take the day by the handle of anxiety or by the handle of calm.”

-Henry Ward Beeche-

How does worry affect the brain?

The way the worry affects the brain is more intense than we think. Thus, neuroscientists like Dr. Joseph LeDoux of the University of New York tell us that the impact of this dimension is so severe because people on average, we do not know how to care in a healthy way. We have the curious tendency to take almost everything to the extreme.

However, it also points out another factor that perhaps exempts us from a part of guilt. Our brain is programmed to worry first and to think later. In other words, our emotional system and, in particular, our cerebral amygdala, are the first to detect a threat and activate an emotion in us.

Instantly, neurotransmitters such as dopamine are released to generate activation and nervousness. Later, the limbic system stimulates the cerebral cortex to give notice to the higher mental structures. Purpose? Encourage him to take control, to make use of logical reasoning to regulate that fear, that sense of alarm.

Dr. LeDoux reminds us that in the human being emotions have more power than reason. Something like this makes the worries and the labyrinth of anxiety that we face, commonly take control of our minds. The way in which the concern affects the brain is therefore immense and the effects are the following:

Excessive worry generates psychological pain

What do we mean by psychological pain? Is it different from physical pain? Indeed it is, but in fact it is just as limiting. Thus, psychological pain is basically suffering, exhaustion, negativity, discouragement…

In an anxious brain dominated by constant worries, who controls us is the amygdala. She makes us see dangers where there are none. All are threats, we distrust everything and everything generates fear. Its hyperstimulation affects the cerebral cortex, reducing its activity. Therefore, we stop seeing things with more calm and balance.

Likewise, the amygdala activates various areas of cerebral pain such as, for example, the anterior cingulate cortex. In this way, the discomfort intensifies.

When concern affects the brain with intensity, your cognitive processes fail

What do we mean when we talk about cognitive processes? When concern affects the brain in an intense way because we have weeks or months contingent on certain thoughts, we can begin to notice facts such as the following:

  • Memory failures
  • Concentration problems.
  • Difficulty in making decisions.
  • Problems to understand messages, texts, etc.

What is the solution to stop worrying?

Actually, the key is not to stop worrying. The answer lies in learning to worry better. Otherwise, as we are told in a study carried out at the University of Cambridge by Dr. Ernest Paulesu, we run the risk of becoming a generalized anxiety disorder.

  • To achieve this, to learn to worry better, it is appropriate to remember the advice of the prominent psychologist Albert Ellis. Let us therefore reflect on them for a moment:
  • Analyze your irrational thoughts. Believe it or not, about 80% of your worries are disproportionate and have no logical basis.
  • Talk about your emotions, name them, unbind them, bring them to light. It is possible that you are worrying excessively about your work because, in reality, you feel dissatisfied, because you are not happy, because it does not satisfy you. Delve into those ideas.
  • Do not make decisions based only on your mood. Before deciding and acting, apply calmness and pass each thought through the filter of reason. Emotions are important, but if they are paired with the deliberate and focused reasoning, you will always act with greater success.

To conclude, knowing how worry affects the brain, we learn to be more proactive. Let’s avoid falling into those cycles of suffering and make use of more healthy and reasonable approaches. In case of not achieving it, let us not hesitate to contact specialized professionals.