Living with anxiety is like a roller-coaster ride, as it can be thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Anxiety disorders have emerged as a serious health issue over the last few years. Although the exact cause of the disorder is yet to be deciphered, researchers claim that anomalies in the brain circuit can be one of the reasons for the occurrence of an anxiety disorder.
A study conducted by a research team from the University of Würzburg, Germany and published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry in February 2017, provides the details about a hitherto unknown genetic pathway for developing such diseases. The researchers illustrated about four different variants of the GLRB gene (glycine receptor B) that are responsible for triggering anxiety and panic disorders. This study will enable better tailoring of the treatment for the patients.
Anxiety disorders, being one of the common mental disorders, have plagued about 40 million adults in the United States, in the age group 18 and above, highlights the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). While some people reported suffering from extreme fear from specific situations or objects, some addressed the detrimental impact they face every day.
How does anxiety surface and evolve?
Anxiety disorders, a common mental health issue often marked by excessive fear and ruminations about certain situations and objects, apparently disturbs one’s daily activities. It is also associated with a range of problems, such as poor performance, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, high economic costs, etc.
The study highlighted that the root cause of anxiety disorders lies in the fear circuits of the brain. Amygdala (and its subnuclei), nucleus accumbens, hippocampus, ventromedial hypothalamus, periaqueductal gray, a number of brain stem nuclei, thalamic nuclei, insular cortex and some prefrontal regions (mainly infralimbic cortex) have been included as the chief constituents of the fear circuitry. These regions play a crucial role in processing fear among people.
As such, fear and agony are some of the common features witnessed among people suffering from anxiety disorders. These factors tend to stand as the possible predictors of threat that guide the amygdala to act hyper in some anxiety situations. Several studies of extinction have reported that the stimuli that used to predict threat, i.e., the vmPFC and hippocampus, which also help in the process of learning and remembering, has evolved with time and is no longer performing its job. In fact, another reason for exaggerated fear, anxiety and distress is probably due to impaired extinction that no longer predicts threat.
Hyperekplexia is a paroxysmal neuromotor disorder that exhibits both dominant and recessive inheritance of mutations in pre- and postsynaptic glycinergic genes. The disorder can typically be figured soon after birth or within the first week of birth.
According to Professor Jürgen Deckert, member of the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) and director of the department of psychiatry at the JMU University Hospital, “The patients are permanently hypertonic and show pronounced startle responses, which may even cause sufferers to fall involuntarily. Similar to persons suffering from anxiety disorders, these patients develop behavior to avoid potentially frightening situations.”
Road to recovery
The above findings have the potential to increase the scope for improving treatment for anxiety disorders. Though the GLRB gene variants related to anxiety and panic disorders occur frequently and involve fewer consequences, they too have the potential to activate the brain’s fear network. Besides the above study, more number of studies are required to leverage the above findings for developing innovative therapies.
If you or a loved one is suffering from any form of mental disorders, it is imperative to seek help. Contact the Texas Mental Health Recovery Helpline to access the best evidence-based treatment plans. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-596-4708 to avail the best mental health disorders treatment in Texas. You can also chat online with our medical advisers for any information pertaining to mental health treatment centers in Texas.