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Focusing on risk-taking behavior to treat anxiety disorders

Focusing on risk-taking behavior to treat anxiety disorders

October 13 | By Rachael

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety is linked to the functioning of the brain’s two key regions that are involved in processing fear and suppression, and the manner in which these regions function explains the wide range of symptoms seen in people with anxiety disorders. One common symptom is avoidance of things or situations that are uncomfortable or cause fear. There are different types of anxiety disorders ranging from social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and phobias.

The type of treatment to be given depends on the type of anxiety disorder an individual is suffering from. However, several standard approaches have proven effective whereby the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most preferred one. Anti-anxiety pills, group therapies and mindfulness techniques are also helpful in bringing behavioral changes and relaxing the mind.

Anxious people prefer to play safe

Fear is the most common manifestation of an anxiety disorder which results in avoidance behavior towards unpleasant feelings and situations. Sometimes, it can be so deep rooted that it becomes overwhelming for an individual to perform everyday tasks with enthusiasm. The feeling of apprehension constantly nags a person that can cause threat to other people’s lives.

A recent study conducted by researchers from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, have come up with a startling revelation. According to them, anxious people are prone to avoid risk-taking behavior than worrying about any loss. “Nearly all life decisions involve risk. It appears that anxious people are hypersensitive to these risks, influencing their emotions, thoughts and behavior,” said Dr. John Krystal, editor of the Biological Psychiatry.

The study, published in Biological Psychiatry on June 15, 2017, involved 25 nonmedicated patients diagnosed with GAD and 23 healthy participants where they performed a gambling task that involved decision-making between safe and risky options. Non-risky decision-making included risk aversion (to avoid an uncertain outcome), and loss aversion (to avoid potential losses). When given choices between sure gain versus a riskier higher gain and a potential gain versus a potential loss, people suffering from anxiety had similar levels of loss aversion as the healthy ones but showed enhanced risk aversion. The researchers believe that risk drives avoidance attitudes rather than the fear.

Such findings can further contribute towards improving treatment procedures, particularly CBT, in reducing the effects of avoidance behavior in patients. As mentioned by Dr. Caroline Charpentier of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, there should be more focus on “encouraging anxious individuals to increase their tolerance of risk rather than dampening down their sensitivity to negative outcomes.”

Treatment for anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders can interfere with everyday functioning and have a negative impact on thoughts and actions. Excessive feelings of fear and unreasonable worry on a daily basis makes it difficult for a person to lead a normal life. They also affect the physical health causing heart palpitation, chest pains, stomach aches and headaches. However, they are treatable through therapy and medication with the help of professional mental health care providers.

Texas Anxiety Treatment Help can provide you or your loved one suffering from anxiety with the required information regarding the disorder as well as connect you to treatment centers that offer holistic recovery programs. Call us on our 24/7 helpline (866) 487-5015 or chat online with a specialist to know more about some recognized and reputed anxiety disorders treatment centers in Texas.

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