Researchers at Stanford University found in a recent study that children with anxiety have enlarged amygdalae, the part of the brain known as the "fear center." Children with lower levels of anxiety had smaller fear centers. In addition to having bigger amygdalae, the children who suffered from anxiety were also found to have more connectivity between parts of the brain associated with emotional perception, attention and regulation.
The Stanford researchers studied 76 children between the ages of seven and nine. Experts say this is the period of life in which anxiety can first be reliably detected. According to Health Day, the information about the subjects' relative anxiety levels was provided by their parents.
The scientists say that by analyzing the children's brains, they were able to develop a formula enabling them to reliably predict a given child's anxiety levels, based on his or her magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurements. MRI technology is commonly used to study and examine the structure of individual brains.
The study was led by researcher Dr. Shaozheng Qin and was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
"It is a bit surprising that alterations to the structure and connectivity of the amygdala were so significant in children with higher levels of anxiety," Qin said in a press release, as reported by U.S. News and World Report. "Given both the young age of the children and the fact that their anxiety levels were too low to be observed clinically."
While the study draws a connection between the size of a child's "fear center" and his or her anxiety levels, it stopped short of making a cause-and-effect link. Qin said the research represents an important step toward identifying who might be at risk of anxiety, and how the condition develops.
In some patients, anxiety may give rise to additional problems in adolescence and adulthood. Some people who battle anxiety also struggle with substance abuse, addiction and eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia and compulsive overeating. Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef founded Fairwinds Treatment Center in 1989 to help patients who have fallen prey to addictions and/or eating disorders because of their struggles with mental health problems like anxiety. Too often such conditions go undiagnosed, which makes recovering from substance abuse and disordered eating extremely challenging, if not impossible. Fairwinds Treatment Center's unique dual diagnosis approach uses a variety of tools, including therapeutic counseling and clinical treatment, to address all of a patients underlying issues. Dual diagnosis treatment paves the way for deep and lasting recovery.
If you believe that your loved one requires treatment for anxiety, substance abuse and/or disordered eating, there is no better facility to help them than Fairwinds Treatment Center in Clearwater, Florida. For more information, contact us today at (727) 449-0300.