Anxiety And Neurotransmitters

Anxiety And Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers which enable transmission of electric signals from different sensory receptors to the brain and transfer the signal to the targeted body part in response to the surrounding environment. Tasks like beating of the heart, experiencing a particular type of mood and so on are transmitted from the brain by these neurotransmitters. What many people do not realize is that anxiety and neurotransmitters are connected.

Neurotransmitters are broadly classified as inhibitory and excitatory. The former balances one’s mood and the later stimulates the brain. Between them, the chemicals generated in the body stabilize the mood and regulates the response of flight or fight. Alteration in their levels causes anxiety problems.

Some neurotransmitters enabling normal functioning of our body are serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, GABA, and corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH).

Serotonin is of inhibitory variety which affects the mood but does not stimulate it. Norepinphrine is of the excitatory variety which stimulates the brain and in high levels can cause anxiety. Studies reveal that these two neurotransmitters are linked rather closely and a variation in the levels of one causes a change in the level of the other as well. This explains alterations in the moods, body energy and thoughts when an individual suffers from anxiety. Low levels of serotonin cause alteration in norepinphrine levels which in turn causes lower production of serotonin. Serotonin is known to regulate impulsive behavior and anxiety. Use of recreational drugs, stress and poor diet can result in imbalance of neurotransmitters leading to anxiety.

Dopamine is both inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitter. This influences motivation, focus and affects one’s feeling of movement or pleasure. High levels of dopamine cause quicker response and alertness. Low levels cause lethargy and fatigue. Excessive stress alters Dopamine levels leading to anxiety.

GABA (gamma amino-butyric acid) is the inhibitory variety. This induces sleep and calms the body from an excited state. Adequate levels also regulate the levels of other neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinphrine. When the excitatory neurotransmitters are imbalanced, GABA levels also become too high or low. In such condition, GABA works towards reducing stimulation of receptors thus reducing anxiety. 

CRH functions as a neurotransmitter and stress hormone. Abnormality in its functioning can cause anxiety. According to an article in the European Journal of Pharmacology published in 2008; Marcus Ising and Florian Holsboer stated that the levels of CRH secreted in the body in a state of anxiety were much higher than normal. They also stated that the drugs which need to be administered for treating depression and anxiety should actually target the levels of CRH in the body.

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