Anxiety: scientists discover how it shoots up at the chemical level


20% of people will experience anxiety crises at some point in their lives

🖊Collège de France 📸SHUTTERSTOCK

Anxiety is one of the most widespread mental illnesses worldwide. It is estimated that 20% of people will experience anxiety crises at some point in their lives. However, there is still much to know about this condition; and equally long is the road to destigmatizing it.

Strictly speaking, anxiety is a defense mechanism. Evolution gave humans an alarm signal that is activated in the face of possible external threats.

Over the millennia, the dangers we face daily have changed and this has helped so that the biological mechanism behind anxiety is no longer precisely an ally in the face of danger but a clinical condition.

The worries of the modern world have filled our lives with potential triggers of anxiety; and the pandemic only contributed to its further spread around the world.

20% of people will suffer an anxiety crisis throughout their lives; and of this group, 9% will develop a panic disorder.

Anxiety affects women more than men. Two-thirds of those who report suffering from it are female. It is also a condition that particularly affects young people: the demographic group with the highest prevalence are young people between the ages of 18 and 34.

And yet, there is little talk of anxiety in public. Moreover, science still has a long way to go to understand and treat it more effectively. However, important steps are gradually being taken on this side of the problem.

A joint research between the Autonomous University of Madrid and the Collège de France discovered the primary role of the OTX2 protein in the physiological mechanism that triggers anxiety. According to a study in mice, this protein would be responsible for regulating nervous behavior.

This molecule had already been examined for its involvement in mental processes such as depression or learning, but experiments in mice revealed that it also plays a crucial role in triggering anxiety.

Although the research has not yet been completed, the researchers are confident that this discovery will allow the development of better medical treatments for patients with anxiety.

However, the solution will not be found only in laboratories; the collaboration of society is also necessary. Therefore, the scientists of the study ask the population to destigmatize anxiety, as well as the rest of mental disorders, as this will allow people who suffer from it to be treated more promptly and effectively.