Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - 25

WHEN

WORRY

TAKES OVER

The Brain:
WHERE WE FEAR
AND REASON

There is a so-called fear center
in the brain called the amygdala.
It sits behind the frontal lobe,
which is responsible for reasoning.
"In a situation of danger, fear,
anger or rage, it actually turns down
the frontal lobe and our ability to
reason. Evolutionarily, we needed
something like that. It was in our
best interest to assume the lion
was in the bush," says Tristan
Gorrindo, MD, a clinician and the

director of education for the American
Psychiatric Association.
When an airline passenger starts
to worry midflight that the plane
could crash, the powerful amygdala
is working hard. It is moments like
these when awareness of the situation
comes in handy.
"You might be able to evaluate the
evidence: Millions fly every day, and on
most days, nobody crashes," Gorrindo
says. "Even in an 'amygdala moment,'
you can evaluate the evidence."
What Gorrindo is saying, really,
is that knowledge is power. We can
quiet our brain's fear center. But first
we must understand what risks we
actually face.

For most people, a little self-talk
and calming breaths are all it takes
to squash runaway worry.
But for some, the amygdala-the
brain's fear center-runs a little hotter, so to speak. People with anxiety
can have fears that they know aren't
realistic but still struggle to accurately assess risk and quiet those
worries. Those with clinical anxiety
can work to retrain their brains with
therapy so they get better at making
rational, fact-based decisions.
Psychiatrists have had success
in helping patients retrain their
brains, a concept called neuroplasticity, says Tristan Gorrindo,
MD, a clinician and the director
of education for the American
Psychiatric Association.
Using cognitive behavior therapy
and sometimes medication, clinicians can help people chip away
at phobias and their responses to
things that frighten them.
"They can practice, like a sport
or playing the piano," Gorrindo
says. Many people master new
fear-management skills in six to
eight sessions.
Research has proved the methods effective, he says. Scientists
have, for example, been able to
watch the amygdala of a person
who fears snakes light up wildly
in an MRI and then, after therapy,
see very little fear-center activity
during the test when the person's
fears are provoked.
If you're having trouble with
typical activities because of your
worry-you're not getting to work,
you're having trouble sleeping
or you're feeling serious physical
effects-you should see someone, Gorrindo says. There's help
for anxiety.

FALL 2017

25



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia

Contents
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover1
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover2
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Contents
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - 2
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - 3
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - 4
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Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover3
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover4
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