Anxiety Disorder Research

Current Anxiety Disorder Research: What's Being Done and Why They Should Matter

Anxiety disorder is a mental illness on which a lot of research and studies are still being performed to fully understand how it works and how to treat it.  We have grown by leaps and bounds since anxiety disorder was first observed and recorded hundreds of years ago and yet, we are still probably at the tip of the iceberg in terms of fully understanding what goes on in the brains of people who suffer from this illness.  Here are some of the most recent studies and investigations being done in the area of anxiety disorder research.

What are the recent methods or findings regarding medications, used for anxiety disorder research?

Generally, anxiety disorder is treated with medication, psychotherapy (behavioral or cognitive) or a combination of both.  Some researchers are performing a clinical trial that tries to examine how effective these treatments are when used either separately or together against obsessive-compulsive behavior, one of the common forms of anxiety disorder.  Researchers also hope to determine how to reduce the relapse rate that rises when drug therapy is stopped. 

On medications, a new drug called buspirone has shown promise as an anti-anxiety medication.  However, research is still ongoing on whether it will perform better if used with anti-depressant drugs that have an effect on serotonin.

How do hormones affect anxiety disorders?

To a certain degree, some hormones seem to affect certain forms of anxiety disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.  People diagnosed with the illness have shown to have low levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.  On the other hand, they have extremely high levels of norepinephrine, epinephrine. 

Researchers believe the levels of these hormones in the body causes a person to feel anxiety even after some period of time has passed since the occurrence of the stressful event.  High levels of CRF or corticotropin releasing factor might also be the reason why it is so easy to startle people with PTSD.  Researchers hope to find ways to regulate the imbalances in the hormones and manage symptoms.

What about brain imaging technology?

Brain imaging technology along with techniques using neurochemical tests, have been used to treat anxiety disorder.  NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) has used the same technology to be able to observe a living brain and note changes in its parts such as the cortex and the amygdala.  Through controlled observation, scientists will be able to determine whether activity in the brain is abnormal and how certain areas are affected by therapies or medication.

Brain imaging technology has figured significantly recently.  Recent studies conducted on the brains of people with obsessive-compulsive behavior using magnetic resonance showed that their brains contained considerably less white matter than normal subjects.  This indicates that the abnormality in the brains of OCD patients is more widely distributed than it was earlier believed.

Is it possible to predict or prevent the occurrence of mental illness?
Part of research conducted in the field of psychiatry involves prevention efforts.  This focuses on trying to understand how mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders develop and how they can be prevented at certain points. 

By knowing how mental illnesses begin, researchers hope to be able to perform interventions at significant points during the course of the disorder.  They also hope to use the newest advances in research performed in the fields of biomedicine, cognitive and behavioral sciences to aid in their efforts for prevention.

Is there a possible genetic pre-disposition for anxiety disorder?

A 2001 study made by the American Journal of Psychiatry seems to show that anxiety disorder in the form of depression and panic disorder run in families.  Children whose parents have been diagnosed or are suffering from anxiety disorder are more likely to develop the disorder themselves.

The study also shows that children may be exposed to specific disorders that produce specific risks.  For example, parents who suffer from a panic disorder may increase the risk of their children developing not only panic disorder but also agoraphobia.  Parents who suffer from depression increase the risk of their children developing social anxiety disorder, disruptive behavior and depression.

While the study shows that children in households where parents have some form of anxiety disorder are at risk, it doesn't prove whether they are genetically pre-disposed to the illness itself.

However, the study of whether anxiety disorder and other mental illnesses are affected by genetics does not end there.  A project called the Human Genetics Initiative hopes to be able to find the genes responsible for mental illnesses by compiling a registry of all families with a history of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.  By finding a common gene, they may be able to find out whether mental illness can be passed on genetically or not.

How does this anxiety disorder research affect treatment?
This study reiterates the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorder.  People in the initial stages of an anxiety disorder must be treated before the illness becomes chronic.  By then, there is a possibility that it will be too advanced to respond to treatments.  Through this anxiety disorder research, researchers and psychiatrists hope to be able to develop newer methods and techniques to prevent anxiety disorders in children before they even begin.

Find Out If You Have Anxiety Disorder