Rewire Your Anxious Brain Book Summary - Rewire Your Anxious Brain Book explained in key points
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Rewire Your Anxious Brain summary

Catherine M. Pittman & Elizabeth M. Karle

How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry

4.7 (489 ratings)
17 mins
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    Rewire Your Anxious Brain
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    The amygdala communicates through emotional memories.

    Humans have evolved with a strong fear response that protects us from potential danger. But these responses may not be well suited to situations we face today. For example, speaking in front of a large audience poses no inherent danger, so why does the anxiety response kick in beforehand?

    The answer lies in a region of the brain called the amygdala, which comes from the Greek word for almond – because that’s its shape. There are actually two amygdalas, but we refer to them as one.

    The amygdala is the brain’s alarm system; it constantly scans for threats and dangers. When switched on, it has direct access to other parts of the brain that can push the body into flight, fight, or freeze mode.

    These include the hypothalamus, which releases cortisol and adrenaline hormones that prepare the body for action. It also activates the sympathetic nervous system, or SNS, which causes physiological changes like fast breathing, a rapid heart rate, dilated pupils, and sweating.

    What’s key about the amygdala-anxiety pathway is that it operates outside of language and logic. Those are cortex-related things, which we’ll explore later.

    In fact, the amygdala is capable of completely overriding your cortex – especially in moments of danger, so you may not consciously realize what you’re doing. It’s that out-of-body experience when reacting quickly behind the wheel to avoid a crash. It’s all adrenaline and amygdala.

    So why does all this matter? Because when anxiety is activated in the amygdala, logic is useless against it. That’s why it never works to tell someone who’s panicking to just calm down. Instead, the amygdala operates in emotional memories, which you experience directly – not through images or conscious cues.

    Once the amygdala associates a situation or object with the emotion fear, then the neurons wire together, fusing into a memory. When faced with a similar object or situation next time, the emotional memory triggers an anxiety response. So rewiring amygdala-based anxiety requires learning to communicate in the language of emotional memories.

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    What is Rewire Your Anxious Brain about?

    Rewire Your Anxious Brain (2015) is a powerful guide to overcoming anxiety. Based on the latest research in neuroscience, it explains how two separate regions of the brain are responsible for producing anxiety – and how each requires different strategies and approaches.

    Who should read Rewire Your Anxious Brain?

    • Anxiety sufferers
    • Therapists looking for new strategies
    • Brain science enthusiasts

    About the Author

    Catherine M. Pittman, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor at Saint Mary's College. She’s a member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), and offers seminars and workshops on anxiety and stress. 

    Elizabeth M. Karle, MLIS, is a librarian and researcher at Saint Mary’s College and the author of Hosting a Library Mystery. She provided research and her personal experience with anxiety for Rewire Your Anxious Brain.

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