Anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

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The basic feeling state associated with anxiety disorders is fear. Fear is a survival emotion, highly connected to evolutionary development and hardwired into the brain for the protection and safety of the individual (Millon, 1990; Rasmussen, 2010). In situations that are actually dangerous or perceived as such, fear is stimulated through one or more of the five senses that send signals to and fire the neurons in the lateral amygdala. Over the many years of childhood, our learned responses to fear-activating experiences are stored in the lateral amygdala and flow easily and instantly to the central nucleus of the amygdala, where the cranial nervous system activates the defenses of freezing, fleeing, or fighting. The heart starts pumping, breathing gets shorter, adrenaline is flowing, and the body jumps into action or freezes.