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What are the Different Types of Anxiety Research?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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New types of anxiety research are being done all the time because the conditions that cause anxiety disorders, which include obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder, are still difficult to explain and sometimes challenging to treat. It’s clear that anxiety can have a whole body effect. It might originate in the brain, and particularly is seen as focused on the amygdala, a small section of the brain, but it can change many body responses. The common symptoms of anxiety can affect breathing, weight and metabolism, muscle control and other areas; excessive anxiety is a total body experience, and while treatment exists, it is not always perfect.

One of the big areas of anxiety research can be summed in the following sentence: What causes it? Research to answer this question could actually include work in a number of different areas. For instance, projects that study the human genome to determine where things go awry could teach about anxiety. Linking it to specific genes would be a major leap. Moreover, there is the issue of inheritance as relates to genetics. There does seem greater predisposition for anxiety disorders in families, but exactly what that link is and how it gets played out on a genetic scale is yet to be determined.

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Though there is a genetic link, its clear that some forms of anxiety aren’t present in childhood and seem to be triggered by later events. This involves psychological investigation into the common causes that create anxiety later in life. Yet any investigation also must pay attention to the fact that some people may be “wired” for the condition given the right underlying gene structure or formative experiences.

Another area of anxiety research may try to address this question: What is happening when it occurs? Here again, there are many ways to approach research such as this. Scientists can explore the psychosocial ramifications of this question. Endocrinologists might be interested in what hormones the body is secreting during heightened anxiety states. Neuropsychiatrists and evidence-based psychiatrists might want to ask the addition question of How can we see it? and look to studying MRIs or other scans of the brain to see if they can determine exactly what the anxious brain looks like, and if it has any differences from the non-anxious brain.

More areas of anxiety research exist and some strive to answer: How do we treat it?. This remains a point of contention, with some mental health professionals convinced that methods of therapy may be evolved that could fully avoid drug treatment. In contrast, there are lots of pharmaceutical research companies that work to develop better anxiety controlling drugs. In particular, creating a new class of benzodiazepines that have fewer side effects is hoped for.

Almost every area of medicine may be involved in anxiety research and the research that is being done on other mental illness and conditions that have never fully been explained. It’s fair to state that no one research project or area is likely to answer all the questions that orbit this condition. Bit by bit as this research appears, the medical community knows more collectively, and this knowledge can be used to good purpose to help those who suffer from an anxiety disorder.

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