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Mindful : April 2019
phobias—agoraphobia, claustrophobia, social anx- iety. Others, like me, suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, a free-floating emotional malady. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in five Americans have had some kind of anxiety disor- der in the past year. In turn, anxiety can lead to sleep disturbances, panic attacks, hypochondria, depression. With so much misery at stake, it’s a relief to learn that lots of smart people have figured out how to ease anxiety. Whether you suffer from occasional worry or have a full-blown anxiety disorder, it’s possi- ble to become fully engaged in life again. In the last three decades, scientists have decoded the spiral of reactions that, over time, build an anxious brain. Turns out, I’ve wired my own brain to be anxious. The good news is I’m learn- ing to rewire it—and you can, too. The more we know about how anxiety actually works, the better we get at beating back the troll. Or at least making it behave. Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself To understand anxiety, you’ve got to start with fear, because anxiety is like fear run amok. Neuroscientists now know there are two distinct pathways in the brain that trigger the → April 2019 mindful 53 neuroscience