I’ve been meaning to post this Time article for a while. It covers a wide variety of topics but is centered around the “recent discoveries” that the human brain is amazingly adaptive. For example, changing the way you think literally alters your brain chemistry. The article also explores a few of the methods that people have successfully used to rewire their brains (including meditation) and it makes mention of anxiety disorders and depression. As time passes and the research continues to pile up, the “anxiety is a disease” camp grows ever smaller. Research has consistently shown that most forms of anxiety and depression can be effectively treated with a shotgun approach that includes cognitive therapy, medications, and meditation or other forms of “brain rewiring.” In other words, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with you.

The whole “chemical imbalance” stuff is a misinterpretation of the data. It’s your anxiety that causes the imbalance, not the other way around. Your serotonin and noradrenaline problems are real and medication can treat them, but treating the imbalance by itself is only treating the symptons and not the causes of your anxiety and/or depression; therefore, such treatment is only part of the solution.

At the risk of going off on a tangent about my own personal bias for such approaches, I’ll just let you read the article and decide for yourself. Here’s an excerpt:

FOR DECADES, THE PREVAILING DOGMA IN neuroscience was that the adult human brain is essentially immutable, hardwired, fixed in form and function, so that by the time we reach adulthood we are pretty much stuck with what we have. Yes, it can create (and lose) synapses, the connections between neurons that encode memories and learning. And it can suffer injury and degeneration. But this view held that if genes and development dictate that one cluster of neurons will process signals from the eye and another cluster will move the fingers of the right hand, then they’ll do that and nothing else until the day you die. There was good reason for lavishly illustrated brain books to show the function, size and location of the brain’s structures in permanent ink.

[…]

But research in the past few years has overthrown the dogma. In its place has come the realization that the adult brain retains impressive powers of “neuroplasticity”–the ability to change its structure and function in response to experience. These aren’t minor tweaks either. Something as basic as the function of the visual or auditory cortex can change as a result of a person’s experience of becoming deaf or blind at a young age. Even when the brain suffers a trauma late in life, it can rezone itself like a city in a frenzy of urban renewal. If a stroke knocks out, say, the neighborhood of motor cortex that moves the right arm, a new technique called constraint-induced movement therapy can coax next-door regions to take over the function of the damaged area. The brain can be rewired.

Don’t just sit there. Read this! This new way of thinking about the brain is already beginning to make waves among psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Your doctor is following this stuff and so should you.

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