The Amygdala and why it is responsible for your anxiety disorder
This is real science. It's not scary. You are not ill. You don't need medication, counselling or psychiatry. Learn what anxiety really is and you are half-way to recovering.
What is the Amygdala?
The Amygdala (amygdalae; plural) are a pair of small organs within the medial temporal lobes of the brain. The amygdala are part of the limbic system and their primary role is in the processing and memory of emotional reactions such as the anxiety reaction or 'flight or fight' response.
In humans, the amygdala perform important roles in the formation and storage of memories associated with emotions including anxiety. Scientists have shown that fear conditioning, experienced for example by those who develop an anxiety disorder such as generalised anxiety, panic attacks, phobias or obsessions (OCD), happens within the amygdala and is stored by it as an inappropriate anxious reaction.
The amygdala reacts to 'fear conditioning' in the same way as Pavlov's dogs were conditioned to salivate on hearing a bell; this kind of conditioning is called operant conditioning and was studied extensively by eminent psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner who found that through repetition, the subconscious mind could be affected in a way which would alter the autonomic reactions stored in it.
John Broadus Watson, an eminent psychologist with theories similar to Skinner's, believed that he could take a human child and 'create' the kind of person he wanted by manipulating their behaviours; this stands to reason when histories of anxious people reveal the catalysts for their condition, more often than not, a specific catalyst can be identified and these include family situations, bereavement, exposure to other sufferers and general social environment amongst many more.
Through behavioural modifications, the amygdala can be modified to react differently. During high anxiety, the amygdala can be modified to react with higher levels of anxiety and this can then become fixed causing an anxiety disorder such as panic disorder, OCD or phobias. Similarly, those with anxiety conditions can, through a structured programme, modify the inappropriate reactions of the amygdala in order return it to a more appropriate level, thus eliminating the anxious symptoms associated with the disorder.
The Science behind the Research
The 'Little Albert' Experiment - Fear conditioning and anxiety disorders
John Broadus Watson was an American Psychologist who established the Psychological School of Behaviourism. Watson believed that he could take twelve healthy infants and by applying behavioural changes, could 'design' people to be how he wanted them to be.
Watson stated that emotions such as fear could be conditioned using behavioural techniques. He took a small child (11 months) called 'Little Albert' and conditioned him to become fearful of random objects: a rabbit, a dog and (believe it or not) some wool! Watson presented these objects and at the same time, made a loud noise.
The experiment worked and Little Albert became conditioned to respond with fear when presented with the objects alone. He had conditioned anxiety and this sent shockwaves through the psychological community that had, until then, believed that fear, was pre-programmed in the subconscious (Sigmund Freud).
As unethical as this experiment was, it proved that fear responses could be raised by fear conditioning and that anxiety disorders can be created and eliminated given the correct treatment.
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was an American psychologist who pioneered research and advocated behaviourism which concentrates on understanding how behaviour is the manifestation of environmental history with regard to the experience of consequences.
Skinner also proposed the use of behaviour modification, much like Watson, he believed that a person could have their experience of life modified by behaviours. Skinner developed the theories behind operant conditioning as a way of engineering society, happiness and people's experiences of their lives.
Skinner believed that any experience backed up by a consequence would become imprinted on a person's psyche; the experience of anxiety disorder sufferers would back this up; repeated stimulation of the Amygdala through anxious behaviour would reinforce and imprint those behaviours as a form of 'habit' into the subconscious mind.
Conversely, by using behaviour modification as discovered and pioneered by Watson and Skinner, the reversal of the formation of 'anxious habit' is also possible.
Charles Linden is a pioneer of behaviourism in the elimination of anxiety disorders. Linden's theories surrounding behaviour modification to affect the inappropriate reaction in the amygdala have been used with great success in conditions such as Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Phobias and Generalized Anxiety Disorder Charles developed a program to elminate his own anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia, OCD, Pure O and derealization/depersonalization which has its foundations in the science of the research above.
Combining a targeted programme of behavioural changes and constant support and reassurance, Linden's Method undermines the subconscious anxious reaction in the amygdala, eliminating the core of the reaction within the amygdala, which causes and perpetuates the anxiety.
In line with the theories of Skinner and Watson, Linden's Methods prove that behaviour modification is the cause and solution to many of today's anxiety conditions and also plays an important role in some depressive conditions.