understanding fear - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-06-2008, 10:45 AM Thread Starter
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understanding fear

Take 2 cells, A and B

A x B

x represents the connection between the 2 cells. Think of x as an electrical wire between two processing units (the cells).

When a strong signal/current flows through x, changes happen in both cells, which strengthen x. Next time, it will become easier to activate this small circuit. If the signal is weak then the changes won't happen and the connection will remain weak.

Lets tag on 1 more cell, C

A x B x C

x again represent connections between cells.

Now imagine a scenario where a STRONG signal passes through the x between A and B. Simultaneously, a WEAK signal passes between B and C.
Now what happens, is that BOTH x s get stronger. Connection between all cells is faciliated.

This is how fearful memories are stored in the brain. The main fearful stimuli (say a bear chargingyour ***) and the non salient stimuli (say the location in the forest where you found the bear) will both become part of the fearful memory.

Next time you visit the location in the forest (and there is no bear), your brain still recruits the stored memory and your body feels tense and anxious. the flight or fight response is activated.

The proper term for this is that fearful (or any emotionally charged) memories are generalized.

Literature indicates that the generalization of stored memories varies among people. It is generally broader among autistics. A wide variety of triggers remind them of the fearful experiences they have had in the past.

Maybe it is the same for social or any other kind of anxiety. If you have a bad experience with people then next time you see other people your fearful memories are nonetheless brought to surface and your sympathetic system is activated. Thus you feel anxiety.

SA is mostly a learned disorder. Of course, some people are more susceptible to developing it but what sets if off is a bad experience or a string of bad experiences.
Any thoughts? If I am wrong please correct me. This is based on 10 weeks of a class I took recently.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-06-2008, 11:00 AM Thread Starter
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Re: understanding fear

Am I coming off as arrogant by post such information? I hope not I just want to give people an insight into how anxiety works and help them better understand it.

I am sure there are PhDs out there who know much more than I do and if anyone is on this board I would appreciate your input especially. Input from all is welcome too.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-06-2008, 04:04 PM
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Re: understanding fear

Hey AdrianG...I'm no PhD (unless that stands for "Phucking Hate this Disorder )...but anyway, I agree with a lot of your anaology... but I do think that stating SA is a "learned disorder" is rather simplistic in the evolution of SA in an individual.

Plus, there are so many variables within the degrees of SA that is very difficult to reduce it to a 'one size fits all' kinda mentality (I'm not saying you are doing this...just my own thoughts on the subject). I also realize you are probably speaking in generalities which, with any spectrum disorder, is reductionism at it's best.

In using your analogy, not only do the connections become solidified in the brain but the very make-up of the cells themselves undergo change. In the March '08 issue of Scientific American there is a great article on the maturing brain called "White Matter Matters" written by R.Douglas Fields and it talks about how the myelin that coats the axions need a protein called neuregulin to signal the thickness (layers) of myelin to surround the axion. And to quote:

" Interestingly, many people who suffer bipolar disorder or schizophrenia have a defect in the gene that regulates production of this protein" (pg 56).

Basically, the article goes on to say how the physiological maturing brain is subjected not only to our environmental exposures creating 'who' we are but also by our most fundamental genetic make-up. It is a really informative piece on understanding the complexities of brain development.

The study in epigenetic research is also proving to be quite relative in determining the mechanism(s) that is responsible for certain genes to be turned "on" and others that are turned "off" and how environmental factors play a role in this process.

Science rocks!
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-06-2008, 10:13 PM
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Re: understanding fear

Well said Lilfly. Not to mention Anxiety can be hereditary as well. There are a ton of factors that causes Anxiety, than to just blame SA on one bad social experience. Otherwise everyone in this world would have SA!
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-07-2008, 04:02 PM Thread Starter
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Re: understanding fear

Lilfly thanks for posting. Now I am only more convinced that anxiety disorders have a physical basis.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-07-2008, 04:29 PM
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Re: understanding fear

no problem AdrianG....I enjoy a good discussion! And yes the physical side of anxiety (I believe) helps to explain why some people have tremendous success with cbt and others don't fair so well with just this modality alone.

And thank you Peace99 for the compliment and I totally agree that heredity plays a large role in SA and other disorders on the spectrum. I think there is a wealth of empirical data that proves a familial link.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-07-2008, 05:56 PM
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Re: understanding fear

I have severe SA but my now deceased mother was always outgoing, loved to go places and loved talking to anyone.

My now deceased father was shy but he didn't have an anxiety disorder.

Two of my 4 children are bipolar but only one takes medication. My son takes Seroquel but my daughter refuses to take that. She does take Xanax to help her anxiety.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-07-2008, 06:25 PM
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Re: understanding fear

Hi Purplefusion...nice to meet ya

Yea, I too have severe SA and have a son with ADHD and GAD.

I personally don't think there is anything more painful than having to watch your own offspring suffer these maladies...because you know...not read about...not heard...but know the heartache of their pain and are basically helpless in taking it away.

But too, having SA myself, I can offer comfort, unconditional support and of course, help with getting into the best Drs possible, something I never had...so it gives him a fighting chance.

And as he always tells me on bad days "I feel your pain dog"
And I his.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-07-2008, 11:01 PM
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Re: understanding fear

The argument that panic is about fear makes no sense. The reality is ignored. Everything in psychotherapy is seen as fear and treated as misinformed fear. But it isn't fear.

--Don Klein

I don't think anxiety is a learned behavior, nor do I think it has much to do with fear. I think it's basically a black hole, or a disruptive section in our processing for certain stimuli. It's basically a huge hole in the road when ever our brain tries to process social norms.

And I think the only cure is either to not travel that road, or take a shortcut and skip that section of the road.
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