Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

Leave a comment

How to Train Your Brain To Avoid Anxiety

“The thing that makes fears and phobias so persistent is that virtually anything you do to oppose, escape, or distract from the anxious feelings and thoughts will be turned against you, and make the anxiety a more persistent part of your life.” – Dr. David Carbonell

While the exact cause of anxiety, particularly anxiety disorders, remains unknown, there are a few theories on why some people struggle with this mental state. Factors in one’s environment, genetics, and alteration of neurochemistry are all potential “triggers” of anxiety.

An important distinction must be made. Having anxious feelings – like many other forms of stress – from time to time is not irregular. Our brains have evolved to detect and avoid threats – a mechanism known as the “fight or flight response.”

The reasons why persistent anxiety poses a real threat to both mental and physical health is two-fold: (1) some cannot distinguish “normal anxiety” from a true threat, and (2) repeated exposure to #1 alters brain chemistry; thereby altering thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and emotions.

“Prevention is the best cure” is a well-known axiom within the medical community, and it is true for virtually every known physical and mental disease in existence. Problems with anxiety are not different in this respect.



The AWARE technique is another method of “interrupting” anxious thoughts before they take hold. Practitioners that advocate this approach cite its powerful impact in reducing and prevent anxious thoughts.

A – Acceptance: This simply means to accept what’s happening – and to “go with it.” Attempting to counteract, fight with, or succumb to anxiety only heightens its effects.

W – Watch: To “watch” anxiety in action is to remain a distant observer of its activities. Observe the anxiety without hesitation or judgment – a practical approach that prioritizes mindfulness. Remember: the anxiety and you are two different things.

A – Act: More specifically, act as you normally would and carry on about your day. Think about the task in front of you. Also, notice your breathing patterns to avoid shallow inhalation.

R – Repeat: Repeat “A-W-A” until the anxiety either dissipates or becomes entirely manageable.

E – Expect: Anxiety provokes fear – a fear that almost never surfaces. Expect the best outcome.

Repeated practice of this technique will work given proper attention and focus.


People that struggle with anxiety often feel that their lives are out of control. In fact, many that struggle with anxiety (e.g. OCD patients) attempt to control every facet of their lives; when their plans fail, anxiety often comes back with a fervor.

A relatively simple way to overcome this problem is to establish a routine. Set a schedule and apply some self-discipline to stick with it. It’s important to understand that a routine (or schedule) needn’t place restrictions on how you live. In fact, those with a well-kept routine often discover additional free time to enjoy life.

Arrange a schedule for work, family, activities, and interests. Also maintain a sleep/wake time throughout the week.


Trying to relax while experiencing anxiety is often difficult. Instead, setting aside time to get some R&R while not in an anxious state is more beneficial. The idea here is to take advantage of a balanced state of mind; something that will serve as an effective countermeasure to anxiety yet to surface.

Make it a priority to get away from stressful distractions, even if it’s just 20 minutes per day. This time is your time to do what you wish. Mindful breathing is an excellent way to spend this allocated time, but anything that brings you joy and contentment is a wonderful anecdote to anxiety.


Anxiety is a process – a complicated process, but a systematic one nonetheless. It is important to understand this, as it allows us to distance ourselves from its intended effects.

First, understand that anxious feelings are separate from yourself. You are not your anxiety. Second, know the condition(s) that trigger anxiety and try your best to mitigate or eliminate them. Third, in the anxiety should fully surface, refuse to take part in its ploy to discombobulate the mind.

Numerous methods are promoted to help stop anxiety in its tracks. Here are some examples:

  • Picture a red “STOP” sign in your mind
  • Reassuring thoughts, such as “I’m okay,” or “It shall pass.”
  • Pinch yourself (not too hard)
  • Or…just find something fun to do if you can


If you regularly visit our site, you’ve surely noticed that we’re huge proponents of physical activity. The simple reason is that exercise, perhaps more than any other drug, supplement, or self-medication, produces numerous health benefits – and, arguably, does so more effectively than anything else we can do.

Of course, exercise is beneficial to the brain. Therefore, exercise benefits many adverse states/conditions of the brain, including anxiety. We’ll leave it to the experts to explain the rationale behind such claims.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA):

“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.”


“According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long-lasting. One vigorous exercise session can help alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time.”

The ADAA’s message is a simple one: management of physical health manifests into mental health benefits, especially when exercise becomes a routine practice.


Leave a comment

Personal Music Playlists May Reduce Medication Use With Dementia

Nursing home residents with dementia who listen to a personalized music playlist may need less psychotropic medication and have improved behavior, a recent study suggests.

The individualized music program designed for nursing homes, called Music and Memory, didn’t improve mood problems, but patients who listened to music tailored to their tastes and memories did need less anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic medication, researchers found.

“Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias can result in aggressive or other difficult behaviors, which affect people’s lives and take a toll on their caregivers,” said lead author Kali Thomas, an assistant professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
“We think that familiar music may have a calming or pleasurable effect and reduce the need for caregivers to use medications to control dementia behaviors,” Thomas told Reuters Health by email.

The potential of this kind of intervention was illustrated in the 2014 documentary “Alive Inside,” which shows nursing home residents with dementia moving, singing and engaging with others while listening to their favorite music, the study team writes in American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

But the effects have never been tested to see if the intervention is evidence-based, the authors write.

To determine what the program accomplishes, the researchers implemented Music and Memory in 98 nursing homes with a total of about 13,000 residents with Alzheimer’s disease or non-Alzheimer’s dementia and followed a roughly equal number of residents with dementia in 98 nursing homes without the program for comparison.

In the Music and Memory program, nursing home staff are trained to create music playlists for residents based on each patient’s personal history and music preferences.

At the start of the study in 2012, the researchers used records to assess patients’ behavioral problems, depressed mood and their use of ant-anxiety and anti-psychotic medications. The same assessments were done in 2013, after the experiment was over.

Among the facilities included in the music program, the typical proportion of residents who discontinued anti-psychotic medications in a six-month period was 17.6 percent prior to the program’s implementation, and rose to 20.1 percent after the program. In the comparison homes without the program, this proportion remained stable at about 15 percent.

Similarly, the proportion of people discontinuing anti-anxiety medications rose from 23.5 percent to 24.4 percent, while in the comparison group discontinuation rates dropped from 25 percent to 20 percent over the same period.

Nursing homes using the music program also reported greater improvements in residents’ behavior. The proportion of residents with reduced dementia-related behavioral problems rose from 51 percent to 57 percent, while the comparison group remained the same.

The cost of the program depends on the size of the facility and ranges from $250 to $1,000 for staff training, plus $200 per year for program support, the authors note. Some participants also receive a “starter kit” including an iPod for their music, or ask family members to provide them with an iPod to use in the program.

The benefits of music for people with dementia go beyond behavior management, said Orii McDermott, a senior research fellow at the University of Nottingham in the UK, who was not involved in the study.

“Sharing favorite music or taking part in music activities offer social opportunities for people with dementia,” said McDermott, adding that social interaction is extremely important because the progression of dementia often leads to isolation.
“For busy care home staff, finding out each resident’s preferred music may feel like a time consuming task,” McDermott said. However, “people with dementia find individualized music interventions meaningful and improve their quality of life – so it will be a time well spent in the long run,” she noted.
“The population of older adults with dementia, in particular those residing in nursing homes, is large and is growing,” Thomas said. “This study suggests that Music and Memory may be one intervention that holds promise.”

By Madeline Kennedy     Fri May 19, 2017     Reuters Health
SOURCE:    bit.ly/2pEIEhN       American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, online April 14, 2017          www.reuters.com


Life Is Wonderful vs. Life Is Woeful

Reconciling the positive aspects of life with the terrible is challenging.

In an era of incivility and aggression—an era of selfishness, greed and exploitation; with a wealth-poverty gap, political polarization, fundamentalist extremism, terrorism, fascist rhetoric, misogyny, gun violence, racism and anti-Semitism, war, and so much more—how can we possibly tolerate such terrible circumstances?

On the other hand, in an era of exciting progress—scientific discoveries; magnificent art, writing and music; relative peace; international cooperation; feminist progress; philanthropy; exploration of the cosmos; mindfulness and spirituality; and so much more—how is that we’re so fortunate to live in such an idyllic world?

How do we possibly manage to put the disturbing negatives of our lives into some perspective which enables us also to recognize love, laughter, tears, play, creativity, productivity, pleasure and resilience?

Weathering The Storm

How are we able to recognize that life is both wonderful and woeful?


  1. We compartmentalize. We put depressing events and temporary ecstasies in mind compartments, where these ephemera belong, and, facing “Triumph and Disaster,” we “treat these two impostors just the same” (as in Kipling’s poem “If”).
  2. We are mindful of and grateful for those we love, for our health, our sustenance and supports, and for our work and interests.
  3. We work and struggle to make a better world; we become contributing human beings, acting against unfairness and cruelty, and create a positive emotional footprint, treating others with kindness and respect, volunteering and helping those in less fortunate material, physical, or psychological straits.
  4. We philosophize. While we detest unfairness and cruelty in the world, we recognize that plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose—that history has endured many troublesome eras, and that basic human needs and propensities haven’t changed over the millennia.
  5. We note and savor the positive changes in the world, like the spread of democracies; peace agreements; inspirational figures like Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and the Dalai Lama; the successful Paris talks on climate change; the apology and reparations from Japan to South Korea regarding “comfort women”; ISIS setbacks; the eradication of polio and progress against other diseases; the public contributions of major foundations; Habitat for Humanity; the Peace Corps; random acts of kindness; and much more.
  6. We engage in local and national democratic and political processes, to ensure as best we can that responsible, knowledgeable, mature, dedicated individuals are elected to public office.
  7. We overcome. We demonstrate, even in the face of challenges and adverse circumstances, our spirit, stamina, intelligence, initiative, and energy—and with the help of others, we withstand and display resilience and benevolence.
  8. We smell the flowers, and we plant the flowers…


Saul Levine M.D., is a professor emeritus at the University of California at San Diego.
Posted Jan 05, 2016    Saul Levine M.D. Saul Levine M.D.    Our Emotional Footprint

Leave a comment

8 Behaviors That Create Anxiety (And How To Avoid Having Them)

As per the American Psychology Association, anxiety is defined as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry.” There is a difference between worrying about something and anxious thoughts. Anxiety circles around and around creating challenges to every situation. About 18% of our population struggles with anxiety. So how can we get a handle on this disorder?



By avoiding the issue that causes stress, you are actually creating more anxiety. Avoidance is shoveling dirt under a rug and then wondering why you keep tripping over the mount every time you walk near it. The issues are still there. The more you fight to shut them out of the mind, the stronger they become.

It may seem reasonable to avoid the fears, but if you gently address the situation, you could put it aside. When we avoid one fear, we create another in its place. The best advice is to handle the fear, gently addressing circumstances, and slowly try to handle what is causing them. When we finally face our demons, they can’t hurt us anymore.


Are you aware that you are suffering from anxiety? Denial causes other underlying disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or other phobias. It can lead to severe depression. Denial is a psychological mechanism that we use when things are too uncomfortable to face. Many psychoanalysts have come to believe that denial is perhaps the first stage of coping with a situation, event, trauma, or experience.

Ask yourself if you are indeed inflicted by fears and phobias that control your thoughts. Denial is often the first step to acceptance. But, until you face the truth, you cannot heal from it.


Expectations are strong beliefs that something will happen in the future. We place them as targets, and when they don’t happen, we spin out of control. An expectation is a controlled instrument. We utilize it as a safety net for what should happen. However, we have little control on what will happen in the future. So, we are crushed when our expectations get tarnished. This causes tremendous anxiety. We were sure that the plan was going to happen just as we had envisioned.

Expectations are anomalies. They serve as nothing but disappointments. What you continue to put forth as assurance is not always going to come out the way you want. Stop putting expectations in your life. Anxiety arrives in those times that we don’t get what we want. You had a set plan. It didn’t happen, and now you are depressed and stressed because you cannot find another solution. There is always another way. Nothing in life is set in stone.

About 18% of our population struggles with anxiety

About 18% of our population struggles with anxiety


If you are constantly needing the reassurance from others, you most likely suffer from anxiety. By asking and rechecking in with other people, you are reinforcing an irrational mindset that’s affecting your core understanding. Reassurance leads to an unhealthy belief in your own worth and esteem. If you are constantly worrying about what others think, your anxiety will always be elevated.

Trust in your own opinion. If you have to make a decision, believe in yourself to acquire the best plan of action. It’s good to share your thoughts with others, but living by what they judge, criticize and tell you is not healthy. It causes stress and escalates anxieties. You have all the answers within you. Trust in that!


Medication is helpful, but to rely only on a magic pill is irresponsible. Eventually the medication can stop working and the fears will still be there. Commonly prescribed medications such as Xanax, Valium, and Ativan provide a calming effect by boosting the brain’s neurotransmitters. These are called gamma-amnobutyric acid (GABA) and they work in the same way that opioids (such as Heroin) works. These neurotransmitters create a sense of gratification caused by hormones such as dopamine. It’s a false sense of dealing with the anxiety.

Medication helps with stress and anxiety disorders, but it’s no substitute for the long term behavioral programming. In order to live a healthy life, you must rely on positive reinforcements to help ease those thoughts. Exercise, spending time outdoors, meditation, or even listening to music help in reestablishing healthy manners of dealing with the doom of fears. Taking care of yourself while loving and respecting your health will help reprogram the brain. When you are happy, you release natural feel-good hormones.


Drugs and alcohol can provide a momentary sense of ease with anxiety, but its long term effects are deadly. Substance abuse escalates through depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. Most people numb themselves through these substances and then become addicted to them in order to function.

Using alcohol and drugs to aid with anxiety causes other problems and imbalances your mental state. If you find yourself already dependent, please get help. You are masking the phobias with another issue. Addiction becomes a permanent problem for a temporary solution.


The negative self-talks, feeling as if you are insane, sleep disturbances, and believing something is wrong with you are all part of the helplessness that arrives with anxiety. If these behavioral issues are not addressed, they can turn into severe depression and even lead to suicide. Helplessness becomes a spiral-down staircase to hell.

In order to combat this monster, you must let go of the future. You must learn to live now. Helplessness is deteriorating. It’s just like expectations in that you are bound to be hugely disappointed. For a person suffering from anxiety, it’s difficult to hear, “Just let it go.” It’s not that easy. The brain creates scenarios and confirms the disasters. But, when the anxiety kicks in you have the power to substitute the mindset with something positive. Go create, paint, write, or dance. Do something that brings you joy.


Anxiety is a faulty activation that becomes your fight or flight system. It’s healthy to have therapy. It’s important to examine the issues from trauma and past circumstances. The overuse of psychoanalysis can sometimes hinder your healing. In many instances, environmental factors and genetics play a huge role in anxiety. It’s important to address the issues that are going now and not get stuck in the past.

We learn from our behaviors and past experiences. We can be guided to make better choices and work towards a healthy lifestyle. Behavior modification is important when dealing with anxiety. The over dosages of psychoanalysis, returning to those painful events, stumps your process. The constant re-examining of past events do not allow for you to see your present situation.

“Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.” ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon



5 Quick Ways to Ground Yourself When Anxiety Hits

We all know how terrible anxiety can feel. From the nauseous feeling before you give a presentation, to the panicky sensation when you have to try something new, to the overwhelming anxiety that incapacitates you.

Grounding is a simple but effective therapeutic technique that can help you when strong anxiety hits. You can use grounding when you feel like the anxiety is taking over, when you feel numb, like you are in a dream, lost in past events, or having an out-of-body or out-of-reality experience.

Grounding helps to bring a person back to the here and now, to realise that they are safe and in control of their reality and emotions. It helps a person to refocus and find calmness and strength in the present moment when they are highly anxious and emotional.

There are many different grounding techniques for anxiety and the following 5 ways are some of my favourites:

Grounding Techniques for Anxiety

The 54321 technique.

Name 5 things you can see in the room with you (e.g. chair, painting)

Name 4 things you can feel (e.g. my feet on the floor, cool air on my skin)

Name 3 things you can hear right now (e.g. people talking outside)

Name 2 things you can smell right now (e.g. toast, perfume)

Name 1 good thing about yourself (e.g. I am strong)


Touch and describe an object

Find an object around you e.g. cushion, handbag, water bottle.

Try to describe it as if you are explaining it to someone who has never seen it before. e.g.

“This is a cushion, it is a square shape with a red and purple pattern of stripes…it feels soft with some hard ridges around the corners”

Repeat until you feel calm.


Memory game

When you are feeling anxious, you need to try to reorient yourself to the present moment, and using declarative memory can help with this. e.g.

Name as many types of dog breeds you can.

How many cities have you visited around the world.

Repeat the alphabet backwards.



When you are not in an anxious state, it can be helpful to develop a list of personal mantras or affirmations that help you when you become panicked or disoriented. Write them down somewhere and keep them in your handbag. e.g.

I am safe, I am here in the present moment

This feeling will pass, nothing bad is happening right now

I can handle these emotions, I am strong


Square Breathing

Getting your breathing under control can be hugely effective in reducing anxiety, but most people either breathe too fast or hold their breath when they are trying to calm down. Square breathing is a simple way to refocus your attention to your breath and the present moment.

With your index finger, slowly trace the shape of a square in front of you, keeping your eyes on that finger.

With one side, breathe in for 3 seconds…

With the next side, hold your breathe for 1 second…

With the third side, breathe out for 3 seconds…

With the final side, hold for 1 second…



10 Hidden Anxiety Triggers You Need to Avoid

Anxiety seems to be a near-universal condition. In the United States alone, approximately 40 million adults – or 18 percent of the population – suffer from an anxiety disorder.

And these numbers represent only the diagnosed (i.e. reported). The actual number is likely to be significantly higher.

The truth is that society is somewhat to blame (not to negate our own sense of responsibility.) We’ve managed to build a 24/7 “constantly connected” infrastructure that has permeated into schools, businesses and elsewhere. Many people are under constant pressure to succeed; most ironically by leveraging this very infrastructure. This only exacerbates the problem.

“Prevention is the best cure” is a universal axiom within the medical community, including within the mental health sphere. Understanding what “triggers” certain symptoms or condition can – in some instances – drastically reduce the likelihood of a symptom or episode.

Here, we focus on ten established “triggers” that are known to induce anxiety symptoms and anxiety conditions. It is our hope that, by understanding what provokes anxiety, each one of us can better mitigate any adverse consequences.



Consumption of alcohol, as it relates to the onset of anxiety, is a “Catch-22.” After a Always period of dealing with anxiety and its related stressors, some will turn to booze in order to calm themselves down.

As a depressant, alcohol can “accomplish” this task – but only temporarily. After this initial period, alcohol becomes the catalyst for anxiety – and this is the true danger in relying upon the substance to ease anxious thoughts and feelings.

Finding a more constructive and sustainable outlet is strongly recommended by medical professionals.


Our brain is a “hungry” organ in that it requires certain nutritional components – at adequate levels – in order to properly function. Further, as the brain uses up much of our body’s resources (i.e., energy), it’s critical that our gray matter receives said nutritional components, and in the right amounts.

A typical “Western Diet” is one that is heavily processed; lacking in nutritional value to sufficiently provide for the brain and body. According to Dr. Eva Selhub, Contributing Editor at Harvard University’s Health Publications:

“…studies have compared “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to the typical “Western diet,” and have shown that the risk of (mental illness) is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet.”

Nutritionists, dietitians, and other health professionals recommend minimizing the consumption of processed foods and increasing the amount of whole, natural foods we eat.


Depending on one’s personality, the desire to engage with fellow human beings can fittingly range on a scale of 1 to 10. Introverts, for example, require sparse social interaction, while extroverts require social interaction as a means of energy and motivation.

Secluding oneself to the extreme, however, can cause some unintended consequences. Too much solitude, particularly for introverts, can result in some serious overthinking – a prelude to an anxiety episode.

This is a highly individualistic and subjective recommendation, but we should seek some type of social outlet for the betterment of our mental health.


Certain lights, smells or sounds can (sometimes, inexplicably) negatively affect our state of mind. In addition to being an annoyance, they cause a stress reaction – and, more specifically, an anxiety reaction.

Noise, especially loud or blaring sounds, can activate and height the activity within the amygdala – a part of the brain responsible for the “fight or flight” response. Smells and sounds are much more nuanced but are nonetheless a trigger of anxiety in some.

In understanding and accepting the notion that certain stimuli can provoke an anxiety response, we are better equipped to manage our environment.


The determination to push ourselves and create a better life is a respectable trait. However, some individuals possess a drive that – at a certain point – becomes more of a liability than an asset. Such folks do not “live in the moment” of any marked success, but instead, succumb to the “next big thing.”

Constantly working to achieve this “next big thing” can alter brain chemistry to where any perceived “setback” can ignite a sense of anxiety.

Practicing mindfulness, meditation or gratitude can help keep things in perspective.


Sleep is essential to normal functioning of the brain. When we deprive ourselves of this vitally-important state, any number of unintended consequences can surface. This includes, of course, adverse psychological consequences.

Lack of sleep often leads to an inability to sleep, aka insomnia. Ultimately, our mental and physical health suffers as a result.

If getting a good night’s rest becomes a consistent problem, it is recommended to seek medical advice.


As mentioned, the brain is a hungry organ; it requires a steady supply of glucose and other nutrients in order to function properly. Without these nutritional components, we’re susceptible to diabetes-like symptoms – shakiness, dizziness, weakness, etc.

Furthermore, low blood sugar creates unnecessary stress for the brain. As a result, the brain will perceive this inadequacy as a threat, which can trigger an anxiety episode.

The solution is to consult a physician, nutritionist or other expert who can recommend a dietary regimen that benefits your unique needs.


Without a proper ability to manage stress, we’ll easily succumb to anxiety triggers – both internal and external. Stress both creates and exacerbates thoughts and feelings of anxiety; making stress management a priority for those who desire to alleviate anxiety and its associated symptoms.

Practicing mindfulness and deep breathing can help in dealing with these triggers.


Negative thoughts breed negative thoughts, the consequences of which can be devastating in nature. As important, negative thought patterns have a tendency to worsen in degree over time, resulting in a negative spiral that some cannot manage to get out of.

Positive activities can counteract some or all of the anxiety experienced as a result of such thought patterns. Sports, meditation, or yoga are all activities that can reduce negative and anxious thought patterns.


For those that once had “a vision” for their life – and (realistically or perceivably) saw this vision crumble – they are prone to experiencing high levels of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

These folks tend to be extremely competitive and goal-oriented individuals. Therefore, losing one’s sense of purpose is devastating. Similarly, others that “lose their way” tend to experience bouts of anxiety to some degree.

Again, mindfulness, meditation, and practicing gratitude can help put things in perspective. Practice sitting in silence on a consistent basis, and you may just find the ever-elusive answer to this complicated problem.

1 Comment

For Anxiety Disorders, CBT May Restore Brain’s Structural Balance

New research finds that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) actually changes key brain structures that are involved in processing and regulating emotions.

The finding helps to explain the success of CBT for anxiety disorders. Remediation of social anxiety is an important accomplishment as anxiety in social situations is not a rare problem.

Experts say that around one in 10 people are affected by social anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Social anxiety disorder is diagnosed if fears and anxiety in social situations significantly impair everyday life and cause intense suffering. A relatively common anxiety provoking experience is talking in front of a larger group — a situation that can provoke fear and extreme stress.

In the new study, researchers from the University of Zurich, Zurich University Hospital and the University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich discovered that the successful treatment of an anxiety disorder alters key brain structures linked to emotions.

In patients suffering from social anxiety disorder, regulation of excessive anxiety by frontal and lateral brain areas is impaired. Strategies aimed at regulating emotions should restore the balance between cortical and subcortical brain areas.


These strategies are practiced in CBT, a central therapy for social anxiety disorder. In cognitive behavioral group therapy, patients learn and apply new strategies aimed at dealing with social anxiety disorder.

Based on specific examples, the group discusses explanatory models and identifies starting points for changes. Through self-observation, role plays, or video recordings, alternative viewpoints can be developed.

related: ‘Positive Activity’ as Effective as ‘Positive Thinking’ in Treating Depression

In the study, published online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers investigated structural brain changes in patients suffering from social anxiety disorder after a specific 10-week course of CBT. Using magnetic resonance imaging, the participants’ brains were examined before and after CBT.

“We were able to show that structural changes occur in brain areas linked to self-control and emotion regulation,” said Dr. Annette Brühl, head physician at the Center for Depression, Anxiety Disorders and Psychotherapy at the University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich (PUK).

The more successful the treatment, the stronger the brain changes. The research group was also able to demonstrate that brain areas involved in processing emotions were more interconnected after the treatment.

“Psychotherapy normalizes brain changes associated with social anxiety disorder,” Brühl said.

By Rick Nauert PhD