“Stress plays an important role, both as a predisposing and as a trigger factor,” says Singewald. These factors do not directly influence the genes, but control their activity via epigenetic markers, i.e. how much of the respective gene product (protein) is formed. If these mechanisms interact, the fear network in the brain can become distorted. The initially useful sensation of fear becomes pathological and arises even without a real threat.
The fear of fear and 500 forms
Another problem is that patients often develop a fear of anxiety itself and try to avoid certain situations, which puts a strain on their daily lives and impairs their quality of life. If left untreated, secondary illnesses such as depression or alcohol addiction can develop.
Psychology distinguishes between 500 forms of fear. There are specific fears, such as a fear of certain animals or of heights, and non-specific fears, such as panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder (GAS), in which sufferers live constantly with heightened levels of anxiety and worry about everything all the time. Anxiety disorders are often accompanied by other mental illnesses such as depression.
Exercise increases neuroplasticity
The most commonly prescribed therapy includes psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy and confrontation therapy, medication, and exercise. “Especially for anxiety patients, any form of exercise works very well,” says the researcher, “because it stimulates neuroplasticity in the brain.” Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to continuously change, adapt to different stimuli, and even grow in some regions.