What is Affective Neuroscience?

Introduction

Affective neuroscience is the study of the neural mechanisms of emotion.

This interdisciplinary field combines neuroscience with the psychological study of personality, emotion, and mood. The putative existence of ‘basic emotions’ and their defining attributes represents a long lasting and yet unsettled issue in the field.

The term was coined by neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, at a time when cognitive neuroscience focused on non-emotional cognition, such as attention or memory.

Brain Areas

Emotions are thought to be related to activity in brain areas that direct our attention, motivate our behaviour, and choose the significance of what is going on around us. Pioneering work by Paul Broca (1878), James Papez (1937), and Paul D. MacLean (1952) suggested that emotion is related to a group of structures in the centre of the brain called the limbic system, which includes the hypothalamus, cingulate cortex, hippocampi, and other structures. Research has shown that limbic structures are directly related to emotion, but other structures have been found to be of greater emotional relevance.

The following brain structures are currently thought to be involved in emotion:

Limbic System

  • Amygdala:
    • The amygdalae are two small, round structures located anterior to the hippocampi near the temporal poles.
    • The amygdalae are involved in detecting and learning which parts of our surroundings are important and have emotional significance.
    • They are critical for the production of emotion, and may be particularly so for negative emotions, especially fear.
    • Multiple studies have shown amygdala activation when perceiving a potential threat; various circuits allow the amygdala to use related past memories to better judge the possible threat.
  • Thalamus:
    • The thalamus is involved in relaying sensory and motor signals to the cerebral cortex, especially visual stimuli.
    • The thalamus plays an important role in regulating states of sleep and wakefulness.
  • Hypothalamus:
    • The hypothalamus is involved in producing a physical output associated with an emotion as well as in reward circuits.
  • Hippocampus:
    • The hippocampus is a structure of the medial temporal lobes that is mainly involved in memory.
    • It works to form new memories and also connects senses such as visual input, smell or sound to memories.
    • The hippocampus allows long term memories to be stored and retrieves them when necessary.
    • Memories are used within the amygdala to help evaluate stimulae.
  • Fornix:
    • The fornix is the main output pathway from the hippocampus to the mammillary bodies.
    • It has been identified as a main region in controlling spatial memory functions, episodic memory and executive functions.
  • Mammillary body:
    • Mammillary bodies are important for recollective memory.
  • Olfactory bulb:
    • The olfactory bulbs are the first cranial nerves, located on the ventral side of the frontal lobe.
    • They are involved in olfaction, the perception of odours.
  • Cingulate gyrus:
    • The cingulate gyrus is located above the corpus callosum and is usually considered to be part of the limbic system.
    • The parts of the cingulate gyrus have different functions, and are involved with affect, visceromotor control, response selection, skeletomotor control, visuospatial processing, and in memory access.
    • A part of the cingulate gyrus is the anterior cingulate cortex, which is thought to play a central role in attention and behaviourally demanding cognitive tasks.
    • It may be particularly important with regard to conscious, subjective emotional awareness.
    • This region of the brain may play an important role in the initiation of motivated behaviour.
    • The subgenual cingulate is more active during both experimentally induced sadness and during depressive episodes.

Other Brain Structures

  • Basal ganglia:
    • Basal ganglia are groups of nuclei found on either side of the thalamus.
    • Basal ganglia play an important role in motivation, action selection and reward learning.
  • Orbitofrontal cortex:
    • The orbitofrontal cortex is a major structure involved in decision making and the influence by emotion on that decision.
  • Prefrontal cortex:
    • The prefrontal cortex is the front of the brain, behind the forehead and above the eyes.
    • It appears to play a critical role in the regulation of emotion and behaviour by anticipating consequences.
    • It may play an important role in delayed gratification by maintaining emotions over time and organising behaviour toward specific goals.
  • Ventral striatum:
    • The ventral striatum is a group of subcortical structures thought to play an important role in emotion and behaviour.
    • One part of the ventral striatum called the nucleus accumbens is thought to be involved in the experience of pleasure.
    • Individuals with addictions experience increased activity in this area when they encounter the object of their addiction.
  • Insula:
    • The insular cortex is thought to play a critical role in the bodily experience of emotion, as it is connected to other brain structures that regulate the body’s autonomic functions (heart rate, breathing, digestion, etc.).
    • The insula is implicated in empathy and awareness of emotion.
  • Cerebellum:
    • A “Cerebellar Cognitive Affective Syndrome” has been described.
    • Both neuroimaging studies as well as studies following pathological cerebellar lesions (such as a stroke) demonstrate that the cerebellum has a significant role in emotional regulation.
    • Lesion studies have shown that cerebellar dysfunction can attenuate the experience of positive emotions.
    • While these same studies do not show an attenuated response to frightening stimuli, the stimuli did not recruit structures that normally would be activated (such as the amygdala).
    • Rather, alternative structures were activated, such as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate gyrus, and the insula.
    • This may indicate that evolutionary pressure resulted in the development of the cerebellum as a redundant fear-mediating circuit to enhance survival.
    • It may also indicate a regulatory role for the cerebellum in the neural response to rewarding stimuli, such as money, drugs of abuse, and orgasm.
  • Lateral prefrontal cortex.
  • Primary sensorimotor cortex.
  • Temporal cortex.
  • Brainstem.

Right Hemisphere

The right hemisphere has been proposed as directly involved in emotion processing. Scientific theory regarding its role produced several models of emotional functioning. C.K. Mills was an early researcher who proposed a direct link between the right hemisphere and emotion processing, having observed decreased emotion processing in patients with lesions to the right hemisphere. In the late 1980s to early 1990s neocortical structures were shown to have an involvement in emotion. These findings led to the development of the right hemisphere hypothesis and the valence hypothesis.

Right Hemisphere Hypothesis

The right hemisphere hypothesis asserts that the right hemisphere is specialized for the expression and perception of emotion. It has been linked with mental strategies that are nonverbal, synthetic, integrative, holistic, and gestaltic. The right hemisphere is more in touch with subcortical systems of autonomic arousal and attention as demonstrated in patients that have increased spatial neglect when damage affects the right brain versus the left brain. Right hemisphere pathologies have been linked with abnormal patterns of autonomic nervous system responses. These findings would help signify the strong connection of the subcortical brain regions to the right hemisphere.

Valence Hypothesis

The valence hypothesis acknowledges the right hemisphere’s role in emotion, but asserts that it is mainly focused on the processing of negative emotions whereas the left hemisphere processes positive emotions. The two hemispheres have been the subject of much debate. One version states that the right hemisphere processes negative emotion leaving positive emotion to the left brain. A second version suggests that the right hemisphere predominates in experiencing both positive and negative emotion. More recently, the frontal lobe has been the focus of research, asserting that the frontal lobes of both hemispheres are involved in emotions, while the parietal and temporal lobes are involved in the processing of emotion. Decreased right parietal lobe activity has been associated with depression and increased right parietal lobe activity with anxiety arousal. The increasing understanding of the different hemispheres has led to increasingly complicated models, all based on the original valence model.

Cognitive Neuroscience

Despite their interactions, the study of cognition until the late 1990s, excluded emotion and focused on non-emotional processes (e.g. memory, attention, perception, action, problem solving and mental imagery). The study of the neural basis of non-emotional and emotional processes emerged as two separate fields: cognitive neuroscience and affective neuroscience. Emotional and non-emotional processes often involve overlapping neural and mental mechanisms.

Cognitive Neuroscience Tasks in Affective Neuroscience Research

Emotion Go/No-Go

The emotion go/no-go task has been used to study behavioural inhibition, particularly emotional modulation of this inhibition. A derivation of the original go/no-go paradigm, this task involves a combination of affective “go cues”, where the participant must rapidly make a motor response, and affective “no-go cues,” where a response must be withheld. Because “go cues” are more common, the task measures a subject’s ability to inhibit a response under different emotional conditions.

The task is common in tests of emotion regulation, and is often paired with neuroimaging measures to localize relevant brain function in both healthy individuals and those with affective disorders. For example, go/no-go studies converge with other methodology to implicate areas of the prefrontal cortex during inhibition of emotionally valenced stimuli.

Emotional Stroop

The emotional Stroop task, an adaptation to the original Stroop, measures attentional bias to emotional stimuli. Participants must name the ink colour of presented words while ignoring the words’ meanings. In general, participants have more difficulty detaching attention from affectively valenced words, than neutral words. This interference from valenced words is measured by the response latency in naming the colour of neutral words as compared with emotional words.

This task has been often used to test selective attention to threatening and other negatively valenced stimuli, most often in relation to psychopathology. Disorder-specific attentional biases have been found for a variety of mental disorders. For example, participants with spider phobia show a bias to spider-related words but not other negatively valenced words. Similar findings have been attributed to threat words related to other anxiety disorders. However, other studies have questioned these findings. In fact, anxious participants in some studies show the Stroop interference effect for both negative and positive words, when the words are matched for emotionality. This means that the specificity effects for various disorders may be largely attributable to the semantic relation of the words to the concerns of the disorder, rather than their emotionality.

Ekman 60 Faces Task

The Ekman faces task is used to measure emotion recognition of six basic emotions. Black and white photographs of 10 actors (6 male, 4 female) are presented, with each actor displaying each emotion. Participants are usually asked to respond quickly with the name of the displayed emotion. The task is a common tool to study deficits in emotion regulation in patients with dementia, Parkinson’s, and other cognitively degenerative disorders. The task has been used to analyse recognition errors in disorders such as borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

Dot Probe (Emotion)

The emotional dot-probe paradigm is a task used to assess selective visual attention to and failure to detach attention from affective stimuli. The paradigm begins with a fixation cross at the centre of a screen. An emotional stimulus and a neutral stimulus appear side by side, after which a dot appears behind either the neutral stimulus (incongruent condition) or the affective stimulus (congruent condition). Participants are asked to indicate when they see this dot, and response latency is measured. Dots that appear on the same side of the screen as the image the participant was looking at will be identified more quickly. Thus, it is possible to discern which object the participant was attending to by subtracting the reaction time to respond to congruent versus incongruent trials.

The best documented research with the dot probe paradigm involves attention to threat related stimuli, such as fearful faces, in individuals with anxiety disorders. Anxious individuals tend to respond more quickly to congruent trials, which may indicate vigilance to threat and/or failure to detach attention from threatening stimuli. A specificity effect of attention has also been noted, with individuals attending selectively to threats related to their particular disorder. For example, those with social phobia selectively attend to social threats but not physical threats. However, this specificity may be even more nuanced. Participants with obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms initially show attentional bias to compulsive threat, but this bias is attenuated in later trials due to habituation to the threat stimuli.

Fear Potentiated Startle

Fear-potentiated startle (FPS) has been utilised as a psychophysiological index of fear reaction in both animals and humans. FPS is most often assessed through the magnitude of the eyeblink startle reflex, which can be measured by electromyography. This eyeblink reflex is an automatic defensive reaction to an abrupt elicitor, making it an objective indicator of fear. Typical FPS paradigms involve bursts of noise or abrupt flashes of light transmitted while an individual attends to a set of stimuli. Startle reflexes have been shown to be modulated by emotion. For example, healthy participants tend to show enhanced startle responses while viewing negatively valenced images and attenuated startle while viewing positively valenced images, as compared with neutral images.

The startle response to a particular stimulus is greater under conditions of threat. A common example given to indicate this phenomenon is that one’s startle response to a flash of light will be greater when walking in a dangerous neighbourhood at night than it would under safer conditions. In laboratory studies, the threat of receiving shock is enough to potentiate startle, even without any actual shock.

Fear potentiated startle paradigms are often used to study fear learning and extinction in individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders. In fear conditioning studies, an initially neutral stimulus is repeatedly paired with an aversive one, borrowing from classical conditioning. FPS studies have demonstrated that post-traumatic stress disorder patients have enhanced startle responses during both danger cues and neutral/safety cues as compared with healthy participants.

Learning

Affect plays many roles during learning. Deep, emotional attachment to a subject area allows a deeper understanding of the material and therefore, learning occurs and lasts. The emotions evoked when reading in comparison to the emotions portrayed in the content affects comprehension. Someone who is feeling sad understands a sad passage better than someone feeling happy. Therefore, a student’s emotion plays an important role during the learning process.

Emotion can be embodied or perceived from words read on a page or in a facial expression. Neuroimaging studies using fMRI have demonstrated that the same area of the brain that is activated when feeling disgust is activated when observing another’s disgust. In a traditional learning environment, the teacher’s facial expression can play a critical role in language acquisition. Showing a fearful facial expression when reading passages that contain fearful tones facilitates students learning of the meaning of certain vocabulary words and comprehension of the passage.

Models

The neurobiological basis of emotion is still disputed. The existence of basic emotions and their defining attributes represents a long lasting and yet unsettled issue in psychology. The available research suggests that the neurobiological existence of basic emotions is still tenable and heuristically seminal, pending some reformulation.

Basic Emotions

These approaches hypothesize that emotion categories (including happiness, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust) are biologically basic. In this view, emotions are inherited, biologically based modules that cannot be separated into more basic psychological components. Models following this approach hypothesize that all mental states belonging to a single emotional category can be consistently and specifically localised to either a single brain region or a defined network of brain regions. Each basic emotion category also shares other universal characteristics: distinct facial behaviour, physiology, subjective experience and accompanying thoughts and memories.

Psychological Constructionist Approaches

This approach to emotion hypothesizes that emotions like happiness, sadness, fear, anger and disgust (and many others) are constructed mental states that occur when brain systems work together. In this view, networks of brain regions underlie psychological operations (e.g. language, attention, etc.) that interact to produce emotion, perception, and cognition. One psychological operation critical for emotion is the network of brain regions that underlie valence (feeling pleasant/unpleasant) and arousal (feeling activated and energised). Emotions emerge when neural systems underlying different psychological operations interact (not just those involved in valence and arousal), producing distributed patterns of activation across the brain. Because emotions emerge from more basic components, heterogeneity affects each emotion category; for example, a person can experience many different kinds of fear, which feel differently, and which correspond to different neural patterns in the brain.

Meta-Analyses

A meta-analysis is a statistical approach to synthesizing results across multiple studies. Included studies investigated healthy, unmedicated adults and that used subtraction analysis to examine brain areas that were more active during emotional processing than during a neutral (control) condition.

Phan et al. 2002

In the first neuroimaging meta-analysis of emotion, Phan et al. (2002) analysed the results of 55 peer reviewed studies between January 1990 and December 2000 to determine if the emotions of fear, sadness, disgust, anger, and happiness were consistently associated with activity in specific brain regions. All studies used fMRI or PET techniques to investigate higher-order mental processing of emotion (studies of low-order sensory or motor processes were excluded). The authors’ tabulated the number of studies that reported activation in specific brain regions. For each brain region, statistical chi-squared analysis was conducted. Two regions showed a statistically significant association. In the amygdala, 66% of studies inducing fear reported activity in this region, as compared to ~20% of studies inducing happiness, ~15% of studies inducing sadness (with no reported activations for anger or disgust). In the subcallosal cingulate, 46% of studies inducing sadness reported activity in this region, as compared to ~20% inducing happiness and ~20% inducing anger. This pattern of clear discriminability between emotion categories was in fact rare, with other patterns occurring in limbic regions, paralimbic regions, and uni/heteromodal regions. Brain regions implicated across discrete emotion included the basal ganglia (~60% of studies inducing happiness and ~60% of studies inducing disgust reported activity in this region) and medial prefrontal cortex (happiness ~60%, anger ~55%, sadness ~40%, disgust ~40%, and fear ~30%).

Murphy et al. 2003

Murphy, et al. 2003 analysed 106 peer reviewed studies published between January 1994 and December 2001 to examine the evidence for regional specialisation of discrete emotions (fear, disgust, anger, happiness and sadness) across a larger set of studies. Studies included in the meta-analysis measured activity in the whole brain and regions of interest (activity in individual regions of particular interest to the study). 3-D Kolmogorov-Smirnov (KS3) statistics were used to compare rough spatial distributions of 3-D activation patterns to determine if statistically significant activations were specific to particular brain regions for all emotional categories. This pattern of consistently activated, regionally specific activations was identified in four brain regions: amygdala with fear (~40% of studies), insula with disgust (~70%), globus pallidus with disgust (~70%), and lateral orbitofrontal cortex with anger (80%). Other regions showed different patterns of activation across categories. For example, both the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex showed consistent activity across emotions (happiness ~50%, sadness ~50%, anger ~ 40%, fear ~30%, and disgust ~ 20%).

Barrett et al. 2006

Barrett, et al. 2006 examined 161 studies published between 1990 and 2001. The authors compared the consistency and specificity of prior meta-analytic findings specific to each notional basic emotion. Consistent neural patterns were defined by brain regions showing increased activity for a specific emotion (relative to a neutral control condition), regardless of the method of induction used (for example, visual vs. auditory cue). Specific neural patterns were defined as separate circuits for one emotion vs. the other emotions (for example, the fear circuit must be discriminable from the anger circuit, although both may include common brain regions). In general, the results supported Phan et al. and Murphy et al., but not specificity. Consistency was determined through the comparison of chi-squared analyses that revealed whether the proportion of studies reporting activation during one emotion was significantly higher than the proportion of studies reporting activation during the other emotions. Specificity was determined through the comparison of emotion-category brain-localizations by contrasting activations in key regions that were specific to particular emotions. Increased amygdala activation during fear was the most consistently reported across induction methods (but not specific). Both meta-analyses associated the anterior cingulate cortex with sadness, although this finding was less consistent (across induction methods) and was not specific. Both meta-analyses found that disgust was associated with the basal ganglia, but these findings were neither consistent nor specific. Neither consistent nor specific activity was observed across the meta-analyses for anger or happiness. This meta-analysis introduced the concept of the basic, irreducible elements of emotional life as dimensions such as approach and avoidance.

Kober et al. 2008

Kober, et al. 2008 reviewed 162 neuroimaging studies published between 1990-2005 to determine if groups of brain regions showed consistent activation patterns while experiencing an emotion directly and (indirectly) as experienced by another. This analysis used multilevel kernel density analysis (MKDA) to examine fMRI and PET studies, a technique that prevents single studies from dominating the results (particularly if they report multiple nearby peaks) and that enables studies involving more participants to exert more influence upon the results. MKDA was used to establish a neural reference space that includes the set of regions showing consistent increases across all studies. This neural reference space was partitioned into functional groups of brain regions showing similar activation patterns by using multivariate techniques to determine co-activation patterns and then using data-reduction techniques to define the functional groupings, resulting in six groups. The authors discussed each functional group in terms of more basic psychological operations.

GroupRegionsNotes
Core LimbicLeft amygdala, hypothalamus, periaqueductal gray/thalamus regions, and amygdala/ventral striatum/ventral globus pallidus/thalamus regions.Integrative emotional centre that plays a general role in evaluating affective significance.
Lateral ParalimbicVentral anterior insula/frontal operculum/right temporal pole/ posterior orbitofrontal cortex, the anterior insula/ posterior orbitofrontal cortex, the ventral anterior insula/ temporal cortex/ orbitofrontal cortex junction, the midinsula/ dorsal putamen, and the ventral striatum /mid insula/ left hippocampus.Plays a role in motivation, contributing to the general valuation of stimuli and particularly in reward.
Medial Prefrontal CortexDorsal medial prefrontal cortex, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, and rostral dorsal anterior cingulate cortex.Plays a role in both the generation and regulation of emotion.
Cognitive/ Motor NetworkRight frontal operculum, the right interior frontal gyrus, and the pre-supplementray motor area/ left interior frontal gyrus, regions.Not specific to emotion, but instead appear to play a more general role in information processing and cognitive control.
Occipital/ Visual AssociationV8 and V4 areas of the primary visual cortex, the medial temporal lobe, and the lateral occipital cortex.
Medial PosteriorPosterior cingulate cortex and area V1 of the primary visual cortex.

The authors suggest that these regions play a joint role in visual processing and attention to emotional stimuli.

Vytal et al. 2010

Vytal, et al. 2010 examined 83 neuroimaging studies published between 1993-2008 to examine whether neuroimaging evidence supports biologically discrete, basic emotions (i.e. fear, anger, disgust, happiness, and sadness). Consistency analyses identified brain regions associated with individual emotions. Discriminability analyses identified brain regions that were differentially active under contrasting pairs of emotions. This meta-analysis examined PET or fMRI studies that reported whole brain analyses identifying significant activations for at least one of the five emotions relative to a neutral or control condition. The authors used activation likelihood estimation (ALE) to perform spatially sensitive, voxel-wise (sensitive to the spatial properties of voxels) statistical comparisons across studies. This technique allows for direct statistical comparison between activation maps associated with each discrete emotion. Thus, discriminability between the five discrete emotion categories was assessed on a more precise spatial scale than in prior meta-analyses.

Consistency was first assessed by comparing the cross-study ALE map for each emotion to ALE maps generated by random permutations. Discriminability was assessed by pair-wise contrasts of emotion maps. Consistent and discriminable activation patterns were observed for the five categories.

EmotionPeakRegions
HappinessRight superior temporal gyrus, left rostral anterior cingulate cortex.9 regional brain clusters.
SadnessLeft medial frontal gyrus.35 clusters – especially, left medial frontal gyrus, right middle temporal gyrus, and right inferior frontal gyrus.
AngerLeft inferior frontal gyrus.13 clusters – bilateral inferior frontal gyrus, and in right parahippocampal gyrus.
FearLeft amygdala.11 clusters – left amygdala and left putamen.
DisgustRight insula/right inferior frontal gyrus.16 clusters – right putamen and the left insula.

Lindquist et al. 2012

Lindquist, et al. reviewed 91 PET and fMRI studies published between January 1990 and December 2007. The studies used induction methods that elicit emotion experience or emotion perception of fear, sadness, disgust, anger, and happiness. The goal was to compare basic emotions approaches with psychological constructionist approaches. A MKDA transformed the individual peak into a neural reference space. The density analysis was then used to identify voxels with more consistent activations for a specific emotion category than all other emotions. Chi-squared analysis was used to create statistical maps that indicated whether each previously identified and consistently active region was more frequently activated in studies of each emotion category than average, regardless of activations elsewhere in the brain. Chi-squared analysis and density analysis both defined functionally consistent and selective regions (regions that showed a more consistent activity increase) for one emotion category. Thus, a selective region could present increased activations to multiple emotions, as long as the response to one emotion was relatively stronger.

A series of logistic regressions were performed to identify regions that while consistent and selective to an emotion were additionally specific to that emotion. Specificity was defined as showing increased activations for only one emotional category. Strong support for basic emotions was defined as evidence that brain areas respond to only one emotional category. Strong support for the constructionist approach was defined as evidence that psychological operations consistently occur across many brain regions and multiple emotional categories.

The results indicated that many brain regions demonstrated consistent and selective activations in the experience or perception of one emotion category. Consistent with constructionist models, however, no region demonstrated functional specificity for the emotions of fear, disgust, happiness, sadness or anger.

The authors proposed different roles for the brain regions that have traditionally been associated with only one emotion category. The authors propose that the amygdala, anterior insula, orbitofrontal cortex each contribute to “core affect,” which are basic feelings that are pleasant or unpleasant with some level of arousal.

RegionRole
AmygdalaIndicating whether external sensory information is motivationally salient, novel and/or evokes uncertainty.
Anterior InsulaRepresents core affective feelings in awareness across emotion categories, driven largely by body sensations.
Orbitofrontal CortexFunctions as a site for integrating sensory information from the body and the world to guide behaviour.

Closely related to core affect, the authors propose that the anterior cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex play vital roles in attention. The anterior cingulate supports the use of sensory information for directing attention and motor responses during response selection while the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex supporting executive attention. In many psychological construction approaches, emotions relate an individual’s situation in the world to internal body states, referred to as “conceptualisation”. The dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus were consistently active in this context: regions that play an important role conceptualising are also involved in simulating previous experience (e.g. knowledge, memory). Language is also central to conceptualising, and regions that support language, including ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, were also consistently active across studies of emotion experience and perception.

Book: The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook

Book Title:

The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance.

Author(s): Matthew McKay and Jeffrey C. Wood.

Year: 2019.

Edition: Second (2nd).

Publisher: New Harbinger.

Type(s): Paperback and Kindle.

Synopsis:

A clear and effective approach to learning evidence-based DBT skills-now in a fully revised and updated second edition.

Do you have trouble managing your emotions? First developed by Marsha M. Linehan for treating borderline personality disorder, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) has proven effective as treatment for a range of other mental health problems, and can greatly improve your ability to handle distress without losing control and acting destructively.

However, to make use of these techniques, you need to build skills in four key areas: distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, a collaborative effort from three esteemed authors, offers
evidence-based, step-by-step exercises for learning these concepts and putting them to work for real and lasting change. Start by working on the introductory exercises and, after making progress, move on to the advanced-skills chapters.
Whether you’re a mental health professional or a general reader, you’ll benefit from this clear and practical guide to better managing your emotions.

This fully revised and updated second edition also includes new chapters on cognitive rehearsal, distress tolerance, and self-compassion. Once you have completed the exercises in this book and are ready to move on to the next level, check out the authors’ new book, The New Happiness Workbook.

Book: Cognitive-Behavioural Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder

Book Title:

Cognitive-Behavioural Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Disorders).

Author(s): Marsha M. Linehan.

Year: 1993.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Guildford Press.

Type(s): Hardcover and Kindle.

Synopsis:

For the average clinician, individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) often represent the most challenging, seemingly insoluble cases. This volume is the authoritative presentation of dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), Marsha M. Linehan’s comprehensive, integrated approach to treating individuals with BPD. DBT was the first psychotherapy shown in controlled trials to be effective with BPD. It has since been adapted and tested for a wide range of other difficult-to-treat disorders involving emotion dysregulation. While focusing on BPD, this book is essential reading for clinicians delivering DBT to any clients with complex, multiple problems.

Companion volumes: The latest developments in DBT skills training, together with essential materials for teaching the full range of mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance skills, are presented in Linehan’s DBT Skills Training Manual, Second Edition, and DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition. Also available: Linehan’s instructive skills training videos for clients – Crisis Survival Skills: Part One, Crisis Survival Skills: Part Two, From Suffering to Freedom, This One Moment, and Opposite Action.

Book: Pocket Therapy for Emotional Balance

Book Title:

Pocket Therapy for Emotional Balance: Quick DBT Skills to Manage Intense Emotions (New Harbinger Pocket Therapy).

Author(s): Matthew McKay (PhD), Jeffrey C. Wood (PSyd), and Jeffrey Brantley (MD).

Year: 2020.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: New Harbinger.

Type(s): Paperback and Kindle.

Synopsis:

In Pocket Therapy for Emotional Balance, three clinical psychologists and authors of The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook offer quick, evidence-based tips and tools for managing intense emotions in the moment. Using this handy, take-anywhere guide, readers will find freedom from overwhelming thoughts and feelings, find a sense of calm, and live a more balanced life.

Bite-sized, evidence based tips and tools for managing intense emotions in the moment-from the authors of The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook! Sometimes emotions can feel like a big, powerful tidal wave that will sweep you away. And the more you try to suppress or put a lid on these emotions, the more overwhelming they get. So, how can you feel better when difficult emotions threaten to wash over you?

In this take-anywhere pocket guide, clinical psychologists and authors Matt McKay, Jeffrey Wood, and Jeffrey Brantley offer quick and simple strategies based in dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) to help you take charge of your emotions and start living the life you want. Using this handy little book, you’ll find freedom from overwhelming thoughts and feelings, discover a sense of lasting calm, improve your relationships, and feel more at peace with the world and yourself. If you are looking for small, easy ways to manage your emotions on the go, put this compact guide in your coat pocket, your purse, on your nightstand, or anywhere for quick and soothing relief.

Book: Parenting Children with Mental Health Challenges

Book Title:

Parenting Children with Mental Health Challenges: A Guide to Life with Emotionally Complex Kids.

Author(s): Deborah Vlock.

Year: 2018.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Illustrated Edition.

Type(s): Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle.

Synopsis:

Parenting Children with Mental Health Challenges: A Guide to Life with Emotionally Complex Kids offers overwhelmed readers guidance, solidarity, and hope. The author, a “mental-health mom” who’s survived indignity, exhaustion, and the heartbreak of loving a child with multiple mental-health disorders, writes with frankness and occasional humour about the hardest parenting job on earth.

Drawing on her own experiences and those of other parents, plus tips from mental health professionals, Vlock suggests ways of parenting smarter, partnering better, and living more fully and less fearfully in the shadow of childhood psychiatric illness.

Addressing the many hurdles children and families must face, including life on the home front, school, friendships and relationships, and more, the book shows readers that they are not alone-and they are stronger than they think. With its combination of easily digestible, to-the-point suggestions, clear action items, and first-person parent/kid stories, its aim is to make mental-health parents feel stronger and better, while actively seeking positive outcomes for their kids and families.

With rates of mental health diagnoses among youth on the rise, this invaluable resource will help parents through the trying times with support, understanding, and guidance.

What is Emotion?

Introduction

Emotions are biological states associated with the nervous system brought on by neurophysiological changes variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or displeasure. There is currently no scientific consensus on a definition. Emotions are often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, creativity, and motivation.

Research on emotion has increased significantly over the past two decades with many fields contributing including psychology, neuroscience, affective neuroscience, endocrinology, medicine, history, sociology of emotions, and computer science. The numerous theories that attempt to explain the origin, neurobiology, experience, and function of emotions have only fostered more intense research on this topic. Current areas of research in the concept of emotion include the development of materials that stimulate and elicit emotion. In addition, positron emission tomography (PET) scans and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans help study the affective picture processes in the brain.

From a purely mechanistic perspective, emotions can be defined as “a positive or negative experience that is associated with a particular pattern of physiological activity.” Emotions produce different physiological, behavioural and cognitive changes. The original role of emotions was to motivate adaptive behaviours that in the past would have contributed to the passing on of genes through survival, reproduction, and kin selection.

In some theories, cognition is an important aspect of emotion. For those who act primarily on emotions, they may assume that they are not thinking, but mental processes involving cognition are still essential, particularly in the interpretation of events. For example, the realisation of our believing that we are in a dangerous situation and the subsequent arousal of our body’s nervous system (rapid heartbeat and breathing, sweating, muscle tension) is integral to the experience of our feeling afraid. Other theories, however, claim that emotion is separate from and can precede cognition. Consciously experiencing an emotion is exhibiting a mental representation of that emotion from a past or hypothetical experience, which is linked back to a content state of pleasure or displeasure. The content states are established by verbal explanations of experiences, describing an internal state.

Emotions are complex. According to some theories, they are states of feeling that result in physical and psychological changes that influence our behaviour. The physiology of emotion is closely linked to arousal of the nervous system with various states and strengths of arousal relating, apparently, to particular emotions. Emotion is also linked to behavioural tendency. Extroverted people are more likely to be social and express their emotions, while introverted people are more likely to be more socially withdrawn and conceal their emotions. Emotion is often the driving force behind motivation, positive or negative. According to other theories, emotions are not causal forces but simply syndromes of components, which might include motivation, feeling, behaviour, and physiological changes, but no one of these components is the emotion. Nor is the emotion an entity that causes these components.

Emotions involve different components, such as subjective experience, cognitive processes, expressive behaviour, psychophysiological changes, and instrumental behaviour. At one time, academics attempted to identify the emotion with one of the components: William James with a subjective experience, behaviourists with instrumental behaviour, psychophysiologists with physiological changes, and so on. More recently, emotion is said to consist of all the components. The different components of emotion are categorised somewhat differently depending on the academic discipline. In psychology and philosophy, emotion typically includes a subjective, conscious experience characterised primarily by psychophysiological expressions, biological reactions, and mental states. A similar multi-componential description of emotion is found in sociology. For example, Peggy Thoits described emotions as involving physiological components, cultural or emotional labels (anger, surprise, etc.), expressive body actions, and the appraisal of situations and contexts.

Brief History

Human nature and the following bodily sensations have been always part of the interest of thinkers and philosophers. Far most extensively, this interest has been of great interest by both Western and Eastern societies. Emotional states have been associated with the divine and the enlightenment of the human mind and body. The ever changing actions of individuals and its mood variations have been of great importance by most of the Western philosophers (Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Aquinas, Hobbes) that lead them to propose vast theories; often competing theories, that sought to explain emotion and the following motivators of human action and its consequences.

In the Age of Enlightenment Scottish thinker David Hume proposed a revolutionary argument that sought to explain the main motivators of human action and conduct. He proposed that actions are motivated by “fears, desires, and passions”. As he wrote in his book Treatise of Human Nature (1773): “Reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will… it can never oppose passion in the direction of the will… Reason is, and ought to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them”. With these lines Hume pretended to explain that reason and further action will be subjected to the desires and experience of the self. Later thinkers would propose that actions and emotions are deeply interrelated to social, political, historical, and cultural aspects of reality that would be also associated with sophisticated neurological and physiological research on the brain and other parts of the physical body.

Etymology

The word “emotion” dates back to 1579, when it was adapted from the French word émouvoir, which means “to stir up”. The term emotion was introduced into academic discussion as a catch-all term to passions, sentiments and affections. The word “emotion” was coined in the early 1800s by Thomas Brown and it is around the 1830s that the modern concept of emotion first emerged for the English language. “No one felt emotions before about 1830. Instead they felt other things – “passions”, “accidents of the soul”, “moral sentiments” – and explained them very differently from how we understand emotions today.”

Some cross-cultural studies indicate that the categorisation of “emotion” and classification of basic emotions such as “anger” and “sadness” are not universal and that the boundaries and domains of these concepts are categorised differently by all cultures. However, others argue that there are some universal bases of emotions. In psychiatry and psychology, an inability to express or perceive emotion is sometimes referred to as alexithymia.

Definitions

The Oxford Dictionaries definition of emotion is “A strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.” Emotions are responses to significant internal and external events.

Emotions can be occurrences (e.g. panic) or dispositions (e.g. hostility), and short-lived (e.g. anger) or long-lived (e.g. grief). Psychotherapist Michael C. Graham describes all emotions as existing on a continuum of intensity. Thus fear might range from mild concern to terror or shame might range from simple embarrassment to toxic shame. Emotions have been described as consisting of a coordinated set of responses, which may include verbal, physiological, behavioural, and neural mechanisms.

Emotions have been categorised, with some relationships existing between emotions and some direct opposites existing. Graham differentiates emotions as functional or dysfunctional and argues all functional emotions have benefits.

In some uses of the word, emotions are intense feelings that are directed at someone or something. On the other hand, emotion can be used to refer to states that are mild (as in annoyed or content) and to states that are not directed at anything (as in anxiety and depression). One line of research looks at the meaning of the word emotion in everyday language and finds that this usage is rather different from that in academic discourse.

In practical terms, Joseph LeDoux has defined emotions as the result of a cognitive and conscious process which occurs in response to a body system response to a trigger.

Components

According to Scherer’s Component Process Model (CPM) of emotion, there are five crucial elements of emotion. From the component process perspective, emotional experience requires that all of these processes become coordinated and synchronised for a short period of time, driven by appraisal processes. Although the inclusion of cognitive appraisal as one of the elements is slightly controversial, since some theorists make the assumption that emotion and cognition are separate but interacting systems, the CPM provides a sequence of events that effectively describes the coordination involved during an emotional episode.

  • Cognitive appraisal: provides an evaluation of events and objects.
  • Bodily symptoms: the physiological component of emotional experience.
  • Action tendencies: a motivational component for the preparation and direction of motor responses.
  • Expression: facial and vocal expression almost always accompanies an emotional state to communicate reaction and intention of actions.
  • Feelings: the subjective experience of emotional state once it has occurred.

Differentiation

Emotion can be differentiated from a number of similar constructs within the field of affective neuroscience:

  • Feeling; not all feelings include emotion, such as the feeling of knowing. In the context of emotion, feelings are best understood as a subjective representation of emotions, private to the individual experiencing them.
  • Moods are diffuse affective states that generally last for much longer durations than emotions, are also usually less intense than emotions and often appear to lack a contextual stimulus.
  • Affect is used to describe the underlying affective experience of an emotion or a mood.

Purpose and Value

One view is that emotions facilitate adaptive responses to environmental challenges. Emotions have been described as a result of evolution because they provided good solutions to ancient and recurring problems that faced our ancestors. Emotions can function as a way to communicate what’s important to us, such as values and ethics. However some emotions, such as some forms of anxiety, are sometimes regarded as part of a mental illness and thus possibly of negative value.

Classification

A distinction can be made between emotional episodes and emotional dispositions. Emotional dispositions are also comparable to character traits, where someone may be said to be generally disposed to experience certain emotions. For example, an irritable person is generally disposed to feel irritation more easily or quickly than others do. Finally, some theorists place emotions within a more general category of “affective states” where affective states can also include emotion-related phenomena such as pleasure and pain, motivational states (for example, hunger or curiosity), moods, dispositions and traits.

Basic Emotions

For more than 40 years, Paul Ekman has supported the view that emotions are discrete, measurable, and physiologically distinct. Ekman’s most influential work revolved around the finding that certain emotions appeared to be universally recognised, even in cultures that were preliterate and could not have learned associations for facial expressions through media. Another classic study found that when participants contorted their facial muscles into distinct facial expressions (for example, disgust), they reported subjective and physiological experiences that matched the distinct facial expressions. Ekman’s facial-expression research examined six basic emotions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Later in his career, Ekman theorised that other universal emotions may exist beyond these six. In light of this, recent cross-cultural studies led by Daniel Cordaro and Dacher Keltner, both former students of Ekman, extended the list of universal emotions. In addition to the original six, these studies provided evidence for amusement, awe, contentment, desire, embarrassment, pain, relief, and sympathy in both facial and vocal expressions. They also found evidence for boredom, confusion, interest, pride, and shame facial expressions, as well as contempt, relief, and triumph vocal expressions.

Robert Plutchik agreed with Ekman’s biologically driven perspective but developed the “wheel of emotions”, suggesting eight primary emotions grouped on a positive or negative basis: joy versus sadness; anger versus fear; trust versus disgust; and surprise versus anticipation. Some basic emotions can be modified to form complex emotions. The complex emotions could arise from cultural conditioning or association combined with the basic emotions. Alternatively, similar to the way primary colours combine, primary emotions could blend to form the full spectrum of human emotional experience. For example, interpersonal anger and disgust could blend to form contempt. Relationships exist between basic emotions, resulting in positive or negative influences.

Multi-Dimensional Analysis

Psychologists have used methods such as factor analysis to attempt to map emotion-related responses onto a more limited number of dimensions. Such methods attempt to boil emotions down to underlying dimensions that capture the similarities and differences between experiences. Often, the first two dimensions uncovered by factor analysis are valence (how negative or positive the experience feels) and arousal (how energised or enervated the experience feels). These two dimensions can be depicted on a 2D coordinate map. This two-dimensional map has been theorised to capture one important component of emotion called core affect. Core affect is not theorised to be the only component to emotion, but to give the emotion its hedonic and felt energy.

Using statistical methods to analyse emotional states elicited by short videos, Cowen and Keltner identified 27 varieties of emotional experience: admiration, adoration, aesthetic appreciation, amusement, anger, anxiety, awe, awkwardness, boredom, calmness, confusion, craving, disgust, empathic pain, entrancement, excitement, fear, horror, interest, joy, nostalgia, relief, romance, sadness, satisfaction, sexual desire and surprise.

Theories

Pre-Modern History

In Buddhism, emotions occur when an object is considered as attractive or repulsive. There is a felt tendency impelling people towards attractive objects and impelling them to move away from repulsive or harmful objects; a disposition to possess the object (greed), to destroy it (hatred), to flee from it (fear), to get obsessed or worried over it (anxiety), and so on.

In stoic theories it was seen as a hindrance to reason and therefore a hindrance to virtue. Aristotle believed that emotions were an essential component of virtue. In the Aristotelian view all emotions (called passions) corresponded to appetites or capacities. During the Middle Ages, the Aristotelian view was adopted and further developed by scholasticism and Thomas Aquinas in particular.

In Chinese antiquity, excessive emotion was believed to cause damage to qi, which in turn, damages the vital organs. The four humours theory made popular by Hippocrates contributed to the study of emotion in the same way that it did for medicine.

In the early 11th century, Avicenna theorised about the influence of emotions on health and behaviours, suggesting the need to manage emotions.

Early modern views on emotion are developed in the works of philosophers such as René Descartes, Niccolò Machiavelli, Baruch Spinoza, Thomas Hobbes and David Hume. In the 19th century emotions were considered adaptive and were studied more frequently from an empiricist psychiatric perspective.

Western Theological

Christian perspective on emotion presupposes a theistic origin to humanity. God who created humans gave humans the ability to feel emotion and interact emotionally. Biblical content expresses that God is a person who feels and expresses emotion. Though a somatic view would place the locus of emotions in the physical body, Christian theory of emotions would view the body more as a platform for the sensing and expression of emotions. Therefore emotions themselves arise from the person, or that which is “imago-dei” or image of God in humans. In Christian thought, emotions have the potential to be controlled through reasoned reflection. That reasoned reflection also mimics God who made mind. The purpose of emotions in human life are therefore summarised in God’s call to enjoy Him and creation, humans are to enjoy emotions and benefit from them and use them to energise behaviour.

Evolutionary Theories (19th Century)

Perspectives on emotions from evolutionary theory were initiated during the mid-late 19th century with Charles Darwin’s 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Surprisingly, Darwin argued that emotions served no evolved purpose for humans, neither in communication, nor in aiding survival. Darwin largely argued that emotions evolved via the inheritance of acquired characters. He pioneered various methods for studying non-verbal expressions, from which he concluded that some expressions had cross-cultural universality. Darwin also detailed homologous expressions of emotions that occur in animals. This led the way for animal research on emotions and the eventual determination of the neural underpinnings of emotion.

Evolutionary Theories (Contemporary)

More contemporary views along the evolutionary psychology spectrum posit that both basic emotions and social emotions evolved to motivate (social) behaviours that were adaptive in the ancestral environment. Emotion is an essential part of any human decision-making and planning, and the famous distinction made between reason and emotion is not as clear as it seems. Paul D. MacLean claims that emotion competes with even more instinctive responses, on one hand, and the more abstract reasoning, on the other hand. The increased potential in neuroimaging has also allowed investigation into evolutionarily ancient parts of the brain. Important neurological advances were derived from these perspectives in the 1990s by Joseph E. LeDoux and António Damásio.

Research on social emotion also focuses on the physical displays of emotion including body language of animals and humans (see affect display). For example, spite seems to work against the individual but it can establish an individual’s reputation as someone to be feared. Shame and pride can motivate behaviours that help one maintain one’s standing in a community, and self-esteem is one’s estimate of one’s status.

Somatic Theories (General)

Somatic theories of emotion claim that bodily responses, rather than cognitive interpretations, are essential to emotions. The first modern version of such theories came from William James in the 1880s. The theory lost favour in the 20th century, but has regained popularity more recently due largely to theorists such as John Cacioppo, António Damásio, Joseph E. LeDoux and Robert Zajonc who are able to appeal to neurological evidence.

Somatic Theories (James-Lange Theory)

In his 1884 article William James argued that feelings and emotions were secondary to physiological phenomena. In his theory, James proposed that the perception of what he called an “exciting fact” directly led to a physiological response, known as “emotion.” To account for different types of emotional experiences, James proposed that stimuli trigger activity in the autonomic nervous system, which in turn produces an emotional experience in the brain. The Danish psychologist Carl Lange also proposed a similar theory at around the same time, and therefore this theory became known as the James–Lange theory. As James wrote, “the perception of bodily changes, as they occur, is the emotion.” James further claims that “we feel sad because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and either we cry, strike, or tremble because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be.”

An example of this theory in action would be as follows: An emotion-evoking stimulus (snake) triggers a pattern of physiological response (increased heart rate, faster breathing, etc.), which is interpreted as a particular emotion (fear). This theory is supported by experiments in which by manipulating the bodily state induces a desired emotional state. Some people may believe that emotions give rise to emotion-specific actions, for example, “I’m crying because I’m sad,” or “I ran away because I was scared.” The issue with the James-Lange theory is that of causation (bodily states causing emotions and being a priori), not that of the bodily influences on emotional experience (which can be argued and is still quite prevalent today in biofeedback studies and embodiment theory).

Although mostly abandoned in its original form, Tim Dalgleish argues that most contemporary neuroscientists have embraced the components of the James-Lange theory of emotions.

The James-Lange theory has remained influential. Its main contribution is the emphasis it places on the embodiment of emotions, especially the argument that changes in the bodily concomitants of emotions can alter their experienced intensity. Most contemporary neuroscientists would endorse a modified James-Lange view in which bodily feedback modulates the experience of emotion.

Somatic Theories (Cannon-Bard Theory)

Walter Bradford Cannon agreed that physiological responses played a crucial role in emotions, but did not believe that physiological responses alone could explain subjective emotional experiences. He argued that physiological responses were too slow and often imperceptible and this could not account for the relatively rapid and intense subjective awareness of emotion. He also believed that the richness, variety, and temporal course of emotional experiences could not stem from physiological reactions, that reflected fairly undifferentiated fight or flight responses. An example of this theory in action is as follows: An emotion-evoking event (snake) triggers simultaneously both a physiological response and a conscious experience of an emotion.

Phillip Bard contributed to the theory with his work on animals. Bard found that sensory, motor, and physiological information all had to pass through the diencephalon (particularly the thalamus), before being subjected to any further processing. Therefore, Cannon also argued that it was not anatomically possible for sensory events to trigger a physiological response prior to triggering conscious awareness and emotional stimuli had to trigger both physiological and experiential aspects of emotion simultaneously.

Somatic Theories (Two-Factor Theory)

Stanley Schachter formulated his theory on the earlier work of a Spanish physician, Gregorio Marañón, who injected patients with epinephrine and subsequently asked them how they felt. Marañón found that most of these patients felt something but in the absence of an actual emotion-evoking stimulus, the patients were unable to interpret their physiological arousal as an experienced emotion. Schachter did agree that physiological reactions played a big role in emotions. He suggested that physiological reactions contributed to emotional experience by facilitating a focused cognitive appraisal of a given physiologically arousing event and that this appraisal was what defined the subjective emotional experience. Emotions were thus a result of two-stage process:

  1. General physiological arousal; and
  2. Experience of emotion.

For example, the physiological arousal, heart pounding, in a response to an evoking stimulus, the sight of a bear in the kitchen. The brain then quickly scans the area, to explain the pounding, and notices the bear. Consequently, the brain interprets the pounding heart as being the result of fearing the bear. With his student, Jerome Singer, Schachter demonstrated that subjects can have different emotional reactions despite being placed into the same physiological state with an injection of epinephrine. Subjects were observed to express either anger or amusement depending on whether another person in the situation (a confederate) displayed that emotion. Hence, the combination of the appraisal of the situation (cognitive) and the participants’ reception of adrenaline or a placebo together determined the response. This experiment has been criticised in Jesse Prinz’s (2004) Gut Reactions.

Cognitive Theories (General)

With the two-factor theory now incorporating cognition, several theories began to argue that cognitive activity in the form of judgments, evaluations, or thoughts were entirely necessary for an emotion to occur. One of the main proponents of this view was Richard Lazarus who argued that emotions must have some cognitive intentionality. The cognitive activity involved in the interpretation of an emotional context may be conscious or unconscious and may or may not take the form of conceptual processing.

Lazarus’ theory is very influential; emotion is a disturbance that occurs in the following order:

  • Cognitive appraisal: The individual assesses the event cognitively, which cues the emotion.
  • Physiological changes: The cognitive reaction starts biological changes such as increased heart rate or pituitary adrenal response.
  • Action: The individual feels the emotion and chooses how to react.

For example: Jenny sees a snake.

  • Jenny cognitively assesses the snake in her presence and cognition allows her to understand it as a danger.
  • Her brain activates the adrenal glands which pump adrenaline through her blood stream, resulting in increased heartbeat.
  • Jenny screams and runs away.

Lazarus stressed that the quality and intensity of emotions are controlled through cognitive processes. These processes underline coping strategies that form the emotional reaction by altering the relationship between the person and the environment.

George Mandler provided an extensive theoretical and empirical discussion of emotion as influenced by cognition, consciousness, and the autonomic nervous system in two books (Mind and Emotion, 1975, and Mind and Body: Psychology of Emotion and Stress, 1984)

There are some theories on emotions arguing that cognitive activity in the form of judgments, evaluations, or thoughts are necessary in order for an emotion to occur. A prominent philosophical exponent is Robert C. Solomon (for example, The Passions, Emotions and the Meaning of Life, 1993). Solomon claims that emotions are judgments. He has put forward a more nuanced view which responds to what he has called the ‘standard objection’ to cognitivism, the idea that a judgment that something is fearsome can occur with or without emotion, so judgment cannot be identified with emotion. The theory proposed by Nico Frijda where appraisal leads to action tendencies is another example.

It has also been suggested that emotions (affect heuristics, feelings and gut-feeling reactions) are often used as shortcuts to process information and influence behaviour. The affect infusion model (AIM) is a theoretical model developed by Joseph Forgas in the early 1990s that attempts to explain how emotion and mood interact with one’s ability to process information.

Cognitive Theories (Perceptual Theory)

Theories dealing with perception either use one or multiples perceptions in order to find an emotion. A recent hybrid of the somatic and cognitive theories of emotion is the perceptual theory. This theory is neo-Jamesian in arguing that bodily responses are central to emotions, yet it emphasizes the meaningfulness of emotions or the idea that emotions are about something, as is recognised by cognitive theories. The novel claim of this theory is that conceptually-based cognition is unnecessary for such meaning. Rather the bodily changes themselves perceive the meaningful content of the emotion because of being causally triggered by certain situations. In this respect, emotions are held to be analogous to faculties such as vision or touch, which provide information about the relation between the subject and the world in various ways. A sophisticated defence of this view is found in philosopher Jesse Prinz’s book Gut Reactions, and psychologist James Laird’s book Feelings.

Cognitive Theories (Affective Events Theory)

Affective events theory is a communication-based theory developed by Howard M. Weiss and Russell Cropanzano (1996), that looks at the causes, structures, and consequences of emotional experience (especially in work contexts). This theory suggests that emotions are influenced and caused by events which in turn influence attitudes and behaviours. This theoretical frame also emphasizes time in that human beings experience what they call emotion episodes – a “series of emotional states extended over time and organized around an underlying theme.” This theory has been utilised by numerous researchers to better understand emotion from a communicative lens, and was reviewed further by Howard M. Weiss and Daniel J. Beal in their article, “Reflections on Affective Events Theory”, published in Research on Emotion in Organisations in 2005.

Situated Perspective on Emotion

A situated perspective on emotion, developed by Paul E. Griffiths and Andrea Scarantino, emphasizes the importance of external factors in the development and communication of emotion, drawing upon the situationism approach in psychology. This theory is markedly different from both cognitivist and neo-Jamesian theories of emotion, both of which see emotion as a purely internal process, with the environment only acting as a stimulus to the emotion. In contrast, a situationist perspective on emotion views emotion as the product of an organism investigating its environment, and observing the responses of other organisms. Emotion stimulates the evolution of social relationships, acting as a signal to mediate the behaviour of other organisms. In some contexts, the expression of emotion (both voluntary and involuntary) could be seen as strategic moves in the transactions between different organisms. The situated perspective on emotion states that conceptual thought is not an inherent part of emotion, since emotion is an action-oriented form of skilful engagement with the world. Griffiths and Scarantino suggested that this perspective on emotion could be helpful in understanding phobias, as well as the emotions of infants and animals.

Genetics

Emotions can motivate social interactions and relationships and therefore are directly related with basic physiology, particularly with the stress systems. This is important because emotions are related to the anti-stress complex, with an oxytocin-attachment system, which plays a major role in bonding. Emotional phenotype temperaments affect social connectedness and fitness in complex social systems. These characteristics are shared with other species and taxa and are due to the effects of genes and their continuous transmission. Information that is encoded in the DNA sequences provides the blueprint for assembling proteins that make up our cells. Zygotes require genetic information from their parental germ cells, and at every speciation event, heritable traits that have enabled its ancestor to survive and reproduce successfully are passed down along with new traits that could be potentially beneficial to the offspring.

In the five million years since the lineages leading to modern humans and chimpanzees split, only about 1.2% of their genetic material has been modified. This suggests that everything that separates us from chimpanzees must be encoded in that very small amount of DNA, including our behaviours. Students that study animal behaviours have only identified intraspecific examples of gene-dependent behavioural phenotypes. In voles (Microtus spp.) minor genetic differences have been identified in a vasopressin receptor gene that corresponds to major species differences in social organisation and the mating system. Another potential example with behavioural differences is the FOCP2 gene, which is involved in neural circuitry handling speech and language. Its present form in humans differed from that of the chimpanzees by only a few mutations and has been present for about 200,000 years, coinciding with the beginning of modern humans. Speech, language, and social organization are all part of the basis for emotions.

Formation

Neurobiological Explanation

Based on discoveries made through neural mapping of the limbic system, the neurobiological explanation of human emotion is that emotion is a pleasant or unpleasant mental state organized in the limbic system of the mammalian brain. If distinguished from reactive responses of reptiles, emotions would then be mammalian elaborations of general vertebrate arousal patterns, in which neurochemicals (for example, dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin) step-up or step-down the brain’s activity level, as visible in body movements, gestures and postures. Emotions can likely be mediated by pheromones (think fear).

For example, the emotion of love is proposed to be the expression of Paleocircuits of the mammalian brain (specifically, modules of the cingulate gyrus) which facilitate the care, feeding, and grooming of offspring. Paleocircuits are neural platforms for bodily expression configured before the advent of cortical circuits for speech. They consist of pre-configured pathways or networks of nerve cells in the forebrain, brain stem and spinal cord.

Other emotions like fear and anxiety long thought to be exclusively generated by the most primitive parts of the brain (stem) and more associated to the fight-or-flight responses of behaviour, have also been associated as adaptive expressions of defensive behaviour whenever a threat is encountered. Although defensive behaviours have been present in a wide variety of species, Blanchard et al. (2001) discovered a correlation of given stimuli and situation that resulted in a similar pattern of defensive behaviour towards a threat in human and non-human mammals.

Whenever, potentially dangerous stimuli is presented additional brain structures activate that previously thought (hippocampus, thalamus, etc). Thus, giving the amygdala an important role on coordinating the following behavioural input based on the presented neurotransmitters that respond to threat stimuli. These biological functions of the amygdala are not only limited to the “fear-conditioning” and “processing of aversive stimuli”, but also are present on other components of the amygdala. Therefore, it can referred the amygdala as a key structure to understand the potential responses of behaviour in danger like situations in human and non-human mammals.

The motor centres of reptiles react to sensory cues of vision, sound, touch, chemical, gravity, and motion with pre-set body movements and programmed postures. With the arrival of night-active mammals, smell replaced vision as the dominant sense, and a different way of responding arose from the olfactory sense, which is proposed to have developed into mammalian emotion and emotional memory. The mammalian brain invested heavily in olfaction to succeed at night as reptiles slept – one explanation for why olfactory lobes in mammalian brains are proportionally larger than in the reptiles. These odour pathways gradually formed the neural blueprint for what was later to become our limbic brain.

Emotions are thought to be related to certain activities in brain areas that direct our attention, motivate our behaviour, and determine the significance of what is going on around us. Pioneering work by Paul Broca (1878), James Papez (1937), and Paul D. MacLean (1952) suggested that emotion is related to a group of structures in the centre of the brain called the limbic system, which includes the hypothalamus, cingulate cortex, hippocampi, and other structures. More recent research has shown that some of these limbic structures are not as directly related to emotion as others are while some non-limbic structures have been found to be of greater emotional relevance.

Prefrontal Cortex

There is ample evidence that the left prefrontal cortex is activated by stimuli that cause positive approach. If attractive stimuli can selectively activate a region of the brain, then logically the converse should hold, that selective activation of that region of the brain should cause a stimulus to be judged more positively. This was demonstrated for moderately attractive visual stimuli and replicated and extended to include negative stimuli.

Two neurobiological models of emotion in the prefrontal cortex made opposing predictions. The valence model predicted that anger, a negative emotion, would activate the right prefrontal cortex. The direction model predicted that anger, an approach emotion, would activate the left prefrontal cortex. The second model was supported.

This still left open the question of whether the opposite of approach in the prefrontal cortex is better described as moving away (direction model), as unmoving but with strength and resistance (movement model), or as unmoving with passive yielding (action tendency model). Support for the action tendency model (passivity related to right prefrontal activity) comes from research on shyness and research on behavioural inhibition. Research that tested the competing hypotheses generated by all four models also supported the action tendency model.

Homeostatic/Primordial Emotion

Another neurological approach proposed by Bud Craig in 2003 distinguishes two classes of emotion: “classical” emotions such as love, anger and fear that are evoked by environmental stimuli, and “homeostatic emotions” – attention-demanding feelings evoked by body states, such as pain, hunger and fatigue, that motivate behaviour (withdrawal, eating or resting in these examples) aimed at maintaining the body’s internal milieu at its ideal state.

Derek Denton calls the latter “primordial emotions” and defines them as “the subjective element of the instincts, which are the genetically programmed behaviour patterns which contrive homeostasis. They include thirst, hunger for air, hunger for food, pain and hunger for specific minerals etc. There are two constituents of a primordial emotion – the specific sensation which when severe may be imperious, and the compelling intention for gratification by a consummatory act.”

Emergent Explanation

Joseph LeDoux differentiates between the human’s defence system, which has evolved over time, and emotions such as fear and anxiety. He has said that the amygdala may release hormones due to a trigger (such as an innate reaction to seeing a snake), but “then we elaborate it through cognitive and conscious processes”.

Lisa Feldman Barrett highlights differences in emotions between different cultures, and says that emotions (such as anxiety) “are not triggered; you create them. They emerge as a combination of the physical properties of your body, a flexible brain that wires itself to whatever environment it develops in, and your culture and upbringing, which provide that environment.” She has termed this approach the theory of constructed emotion.

Disciplinary Approaches

Many different disciplines have produced work on the emotions. Human sciences study the role of emotions in mental processes, disorders, and neural mechanisms. In psychiatry, emotions are examined as part of the discipline’s study and treatment of mental disorders in humans. Nursing studies emotions as part of its approach to the provision of holistic health care to humans. Psychology examines emotions from a scientific perspective by treating them as mental processes and behaviour and they explore the underlying physiological and neurological processes. In neuroscience sub-fields such as social neuroscience and affective neuroscience, scientists study the neural mechanisms of emotion by combining neuroscience with the psychological study of personality, emotion, and mood. In linguistics, the expression of emotion may change to the meaning of sounds. In education, the role of emotions in relation to learning is examined.

Social sciences often examine emotion for the role that it plays in human culture and social interactions. In sociology, emotions are examined for the role they play in human society, social patterns and interactions, and culture. In anthropology, the study of humanity, scholars use ethnography to undertake contextual analyses and cross-cultural comparisons of a range of human activities. Some anthropology studies examine the role of emotions in human activities. In the field of communication sciences, critical organisational scholars have examined the role of emotions in organisations, from the perspectives of managers, employees, and even customers. A focus on emotions in organisations can be credited to Arlie Russell Hochschild’s concept of emotional labour. The University of Queensland hosts EmoNet, an e-mail distribution list representing a network of academics that facilitates scholarly discussion of all matters relating to the study of emotion in organisational settings. The list was established in January 1997 and has over 700 members from across the globe.

In economics, the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, emotions are analysed in some sub-fields of microeconomics, in order to assess the role of emotions on purchase decision-making and risk perception. In criminology, a social science approach to the study of crime, scholars often draw on behavioural sciences, sociology, and psychology; emotions are examined in criminology issues such as anomie theory and studies of “toughness,” aggressive behaviour, and hooliganism. In law, which underpins civil obedience, politics, economics and society, evidence about people’s emotions is often raised in tort law claims for compensation and in criminal law prosecutions against alleged lawbreakers (as evidence of the defendant’s state of mind during trials, sentencing, and parole hearings). In political science, emotions are examined in a number of sub-fields, such as the analysis of voter decision-making.

In philosophy, emotions are studied in sub-fields such as ethics, the philosophy of art (for example, sensory – emotional values, and matters of taste and sentimentality), and the philosophy of music (see also music and emotion). In history, scholars examine documents and other sources to interpret and analyse past activities; speculation on the emotional state of the authors of historical documents is one of the tools of interpretation. In literature and film-making, the expression of emotion is the cornerstone of genres such as drama, melodrama, and romance. In communication studies, scholars study the role that emotion plays in the dissemination of ideas and messages. Emotion is also studied in non-human animals in ethology, a branch of zoology which focuses on the scientific study of animal behaviour. Ethology is a combination of laboratory and field science, with strong ties to ecology and evolution. Ethologists often study one type of behaviour (for example, aggression) in a number of unrelated animals.

History

The history of emotions has become an increasingly popular topic recently, with some scholars[who?] arguing that it is an essential category of analysis, not unlike class, race, or gender. Historians, like other social scientists, assume that emotions, feelings and their expressions are regulated in different ways by both different cultures and different historical times, and the constructivist school of history claims even that some sentiments and meta-emotions, for example schadenfreude, are learnt and not only regulated by culture. Historians of emotion trace and analyse the changing norms and rules of feeling, while examining emotional regimes, codes, and lexicons from social, cultural, or political history perspectives. Others focus on the history of medicine, science, or psychology. What somebody can and may feel (and show) in a given situation, towards certain people or things, depends on social norms and rules; thus historically variable and open to change. Several research centres have opened in the past few years in Germany, England, Spain, Sweden, and Australia.

Furthermore, research in historical trauma suggests that some traumatic emotions can be passed on from parents to offspring to second and even third generation, presented as examples of transgenerational trauma.

Sociology

A common way in which emotions are conceptualized in sociology is in terms of the multidimensional characteristics including cultural or emotional labels (for example, anger, pride, fear, happiness), physiological changes (for example, increased perspiration, changes in pulse rate), expressive facial and body movements (for example, smiling, frowning, baring teeth), and appraisals of situational cues. One comprehensive theory of emotional arousal in humans has been developed by Jonathan Turner (2007; 2009). Two of the key eliciting factors for the arousal of emotions within this theory are expectations states and sanctions. When people enter a situation or encounter with certain expectations for how the encounter should unfold, they will experience different emotions depending on the extent to which expectations for Self, other and situation are met or not met. People can also provide positive or negative sanctions directed at Self or other which also trigger different emotional experiences in individuals. Turner analysed a wide range of emotion theories across different fields of research including sociology, psychology, evolutionary science, and neuroscience. Based on this analysis, he identified four emotions that all researchers consider being founded on human neurology including assertive-anger, aversion-fear, satisfaction-happiness, and disappointment-sadness. These four categories are called primary emotions and there is some agreement amongst researchers that these primary emotions become combined to produce more elaborate and complex emotional experiences. These more elaborate emotions are called first-order elaborations in Turner’s theory and they include sentiments such as pride, triumph, and awe. Emotions can also be experienced at different levels of intensity so that feelings of concern are a low-intensity variation of the primary emotion aversion-fear whereas depression is a higher intensity variant.

Attempts are frequently made to regulate emotion according to the conventions of the society and the situation based on many (sometimes conflicting) demands and expectations which originate from various entities. The expression of anger is in many cultures discouraged in girls and women to a greater extent than in boys and men (the notion being that an angry man has a valid complaint that needs to be rectified, while an angry women is hysterical or oversensitive, and her anger is somehow invalid), while the expression of sadness or fear is discouraged in boys and men relative to girls and women (attitudes implicit in phrases like “man up” or “don’t be a sissy”). Expectations attached to social roles, such as “acting as man” and not as a woman, and the accompanying “feeling rules” contribute to the differences in expression of certain emotions. Some cultures encourage or discourage happiness, sadness, or jealousy, and the free expression of the emotion of disgust is considered socially unacceptable in most cultures. Some social institutions are seen as based on certain emotion, such as love in the case of contemporary institution of marriage. In advertising, such as health campaigns and political messages, emotional appeals are commonly found. Recent examples include no-smoking health campaigns and political campaigns emphasizing the fear of terrorism.

Sociological attention to emotion has varied over time. Émile Durkheim (1915/1965) wrote about the collective effervescence or emotional energy that was experienced by members of totemic rituals in Australian aborigine society. He explained how the heightened state of emotional energy achieved during totemic rituals transported individuals above themselves giving them the sense that they were in the presence of a higher power, a force, that was embedded in the sacred objects that were worshipped. These feelings of exaltation, he argued, ultimately lead people to believe that there were forces that governed sacred objects.

In the 1990s, sociologists focused on different aspects of specific emotions and how these emotions were socially relevant. For Cooley (1992), pride and shame were the most important emotions that drive people to take various social actions. During every encounter, he proposed that we monitor ourselves through the “looking glass” that the gestures and reactions of others provide. Depending on these reactions, we either experience pride or shame and this results in particular paths of action. Retzinger (1991) conducted studies of married couples who experienced cycles of rage and shame. Drawing predominantly on Goffman and Cooley’s work, Scheff (1990) developed a micro sociological theory of the social bond. The formation or disruption of social bonds is dependent on the emotions that people experience during interactions.

Subsequent to these developments, Randall Collins (2004) formulated his interaction ritual theory by drawing on Durkheim’s work on totemic rituals that was extended by Goffman (1964/2013; 1967) into everyday focused encounters. Based on interaction ritual theory, we experience different levels or intensities of emotional energy during face-to-face interactions. Emotional energy is considered to be a feeling of confidence to take action and a boldness that one experiences when they are charged up from the collective effervescence generated during group gatherings that reach high levels of intensity.

There is a growing body of research applying the sociology of emotion to understanding the learning experiences of students during classroom interactions with teachers and other students (for example, Milne & Otieno, 2007; Olitsky, 2007; Tobin, et al., 2013; Zembylas, 2002). These studies show that learning subjects like science can be understood in terms of classroom interaction rituals that generate emotional energy and collective states of emotional arousal like emotional climate.

Apart from interaction ritual traditions of the sociology of emotion, other approaches have been classed into one of six other categories:

  • Evolutionary/biological theories.
  • Symbolic interactionist theories.
  • Dramaturgical theories.
  • Ritual theories.
  • Power and status theories.
  • Stratification theories.
  • Exchange theories.

This list provides a general overview of different traditions in the sociology of emotion that sometimes conceptualise emotion in different ways and at other times in complementary ways. Many of these different approaches were synthesized by Turner (2007) in his sociological theory of human emotions in an attempt to produce one comprehensive sociological account that draws on developments from many of the above traditions.

Psychotherapy and Regulation

Emotion regulation refers to the cognitive and behavioural strategies people use to influence their own emotional experience. For example, a behavioural strategy in which one avoids a situation to avoid unwanted emotions (trying not to think about the situation, doing distracting activities, etc.). Depending on the particular school’s general emphasis on either cognitive components of emotion, physical energy discharging, or on symbolic movement and facial expression components of emotion different schools of psychotherapy approach the regulation of emotion differently. Cognitively oriented schools approach them via their cognitive components, such as rational emotive behaviour therapy. Yet others approach emotions via symbolic movement and facial expression components (like in contemporary Gestalt therapy).

Cross-Cultural Research

Research on emotions reveals the strong presence of cross-cultural differences in emotional reactions and that emotional reactions are likely to be culture-specific. In strategic settings, cross-cultural research on emotions is required for understanding the psychological situation of a given population or specific actors. This implies the need to comprehend the current emotional state, mental disposition or other behavioural motivation of a target audience located in a different culture, basically founded on its national political, social, economic, and psychological peculiarities but also subject to the influence of circumstances and events.

Computer Science

In the 2000s, research in computer science, engineering, psychology and neuroscience has been aimed at developing devices that recognise human affect display and model emotions. In computer science, affective computing is a branch of the study and development of artificial intelligence that deals with the design of systems and devices that can recognise, interpret, and process human emotions. It is an interdisciplinary field spanning computer sciences, psychology, and cognitive science. While the origins of the field may be traced as far back as to early philosophical enquiries into emotion, the more modern branch of computer science originated with Rosalind Picard’s 1995 paper on affective computing. Detecting emotional information begins with passive sensors which capture data about the user’s physical state or behaviour without interpreting the input. The data gathered is analogous to the cues humans use to perceive emotions in others. Another area within affective computing is the design of computational devices proposed to exhibit either innate emotional capabilities or that are capable of convincingly simulating emotions. Emotional speech processing recognises the user’s emotional state by analysing speech patterns. The detection and processing of facial expression or body gestures is achieved through detectors and sensors.

The Effects on Memory

Emotion affects the way autobiographical memories are encoded and retrieved. Emotional memories are reactivated more, they are remembered better and have more attention devoted to them. Through remembering our past achievements and failures, autobiographical memories affect how we perceive and feel about ourselves.

Notable Theorists

In the late 19th century, the most influential theorists were William James (1842-1910) and Carl Lange (1834-1900). James was an American psychologist and philosopher who wrote about educational psychology, psychology of religious experience/mysticism, and the philosophy of pragmatism. Lange was a Danish physician and psychologist. Working independently, they developed the James-Lange theory, a hypothesis on the origin and nature of emotions. The theory states that within human beings, as a response to experiences in the world, the autonomic nervous system creates physiological events such as muscular tension, a rise in heart rate, perspiration, and dryness of the mouth. Emotions, then, are feelings which come about as a result of these physiological changes, rather than being their cause.

Silvan Tomkins (1911-1991) developed the affect theory and script theory. The affect theory introduced the concept of basic emotions, and was based on the idea that the dominance of the emotion, which he called the affected system, was the motivating force in human life.

Some of the most influential deceased theorists on emotion from the 20th century include:

  • Magda B. Arnold (1903-2002), an American psychologist who developed the appraisal theory of emotions;
  • Richard Lazarus (1922-2002), an American psychologist who specialised in emotion and stress, especially in relation to cognition;
  • Herbert A. Simon (1916-2001), who included emotions into decision making and artificial intelligence;
  • Robert Plutchik (1928-2006), an American psychologist who developed a psychoevolutionary theory of emotion;
  • Robert Zajonc (1923-2008) a Polish-American social psychologist who specialised in social and cognitive processes such as social facilitation;
  • Robert C. Solomon (1942-2007), an American philosopher who contributed to the theories on the philosophy of emotions with books such as What Is An Emotion?: Classic and Contemporary Readings (2003);
  • Peter Goldie (1946-2011), a British philosopher who specialised in ethics, aesthetics, emotion, mood and character;
  • Nico Frijda (1927-2015), a Dutch psychologist who advanced the theory that human emotions serve to promote a tendency to undertake actions that are appropriate in the circumstances, detailed in his book The Emotions (1986); and
  • Jaak Panksepp (1943-2017), an Estonian-born American psychologist, psychobiologist, neuroscientist and pioneer in affective neuroscience.

Influential theorists who are still active include the following psychologists, neurologists, philosophers, and sociologists:

  • Lisa Feldman Barrett (born 1963): Neuroscientist and psychologist specializing in affective science and human emotion.
  • John Cacioppo (born 1951): From the University of Chicago, founding father with Gary Berntson of social neuroscience.
  • Randall Collins (born 1941): American sociologist from the University of Pennsylvania developed the interaction ritual theory which includes the emotional entrainment model.
  • Michael Apter (born 1939): British psychologist who developed reversal theory, a structural, phenomenological theory of personality, motivation, and emotion.
  • António Damásio (born 1944): Portuguese behavioural neurologist and neuroscientist who works in the US.
  • Richard Davidson (born 1951): American psychologist and neuroscientist; pioneer in affective neuroscience.
  • Paul Ekman (born 1934): Psychologist specialising in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions.
  • Barbara Fredrickson: Social psychologist who specialises in emotions and positive psychology.
  • Arlie Russell Hochschild (born 1940): American sociologist whose central contribution was in forging a link between the subcutaneous flow of emotion in social life and the larger trends set loose by modern capitalism within organisations.
  • Joseph E. LeDoux (born 1949): American neuroscientist who studies the biological underpinnings of memory and emotion, especially the mechanisms of fear.
  • George Mandler (born 1924): American psychologist who wrote influential books on cognition and emotion.
  • Konstantinos V. Petrides: Greek-British psychologist who specialises in emotion, personality, psychometrics, and philosophy of mind, professor of psychology and psychometrics at University College London.
  • Jesse Prinz: American philosopher who specialises in emotion, moral psychology, aesthetics and consciousness.
  • James A. Russell (born 1947): American psychologist who developed or co-developed the PAD theory of environmental impact, circumplex model of affect, prototype theory of emotion concepts, a critique of the hypothesis of universal recognition of emotion from facial expression, concept of core affect, developmental theory of differentiation of emotion concepts, and, more recently, the theory of the psychological construction of emotion.
  • Klaus Scherer (born 1943): Swiss psychologist and director of the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences in Geneva; he specialises in the psychology of emotion.
  • Ronald de Sousa (born 1940): English-Canadian philosopher who specialises in the philosophy of emotions, philosophy of mind and philosophy of biology.
  • Jonathan H. Turner (born 1942): American sociologist from the University of California, Riverside, who is a general sociological theorist with specialty areas including the sociology of emotions, ethnic relations, social institutions, social stratification, and bio-sociology.
  • Dominique Moïsi (born 1946): Authored a book titled The Geopolitics of Emotion focusing on emotions related to globalisation.

What is Anxiety?

Introduction

Anxiety is an emotion characterised by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behaviour such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints, and rumination. It includes subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events.

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and worry, usually generalised and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. It is often accompanied by muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue and problems in concentration. Anxiety is closely related to fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat; anxiety involves the expectation of future threat. People facing anxiety may withdraw from situations which have provoked anxiety in the past.

Anxiety disorders differ from developmentally normative fear or anxiety by being excessive or persisting beyond developmentally appropriate periods. They differ from transient fear or anxiety, often stress-induced, by being persistent (e.g. typically lasting 6 months or more), although the criterion for duration is intended as a general guide with allowance for some degree of flexibility and is sometimes of shorter duration in children.

Anxiety vs Fear

Anxiety is distinguished from fear, which is an appropriate cognitive and emotional response to a perceived threat. Anxiety is related to the specific behaviours of fight-or-flight responses, defensive behaviour or escape. It occurs in situations only perceived as uncontrollable or unavoidable, but not realistically so. David Barlow defines anxiety as “a future-oriented mood state in which one is not ready or prepared to attempt to cope with upcoming negative events,” and that it is a distinction between future and present dangers which divides anxiety and fear. Another description of anxiety is agony, dread, terror, or even apprehension. In positive psychology, anxiety is described as the mental state that results from a difficult challenge for which the subject has insufficient coping skills.

Fear and anxiety can be differentiated in four domains:

  1. Duration of emotional experience;
  2. Temporal focus;
  3. Specificity of the threat; and
  4. Motivated direction.

Fear is short-lived, present-focused, geared towards a specific threat, and facilitating escape from threat; anxiety, on the other hand, is long-acting, future-focused, broadly focused towards a diffuse threat, and promoting excessive caution while approaching a potential threat and interferes with constructive coping.

Joseph E. LeDoux and Lisa Feldman Barrett have both sought to separate automatic threat responses from additional associated cognitive activity within anxiety.

Symptoms

Anxiety can be experienced with long, drawn-out daily symptoms that reduce quality of life, known as chronic (or generalised) anxiety, or it can be experienced in short spurts with sporadic, stressful panic attacks, known as acute anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety can range in number, intensity, and frequency, depending on the person. While almost everyone has experienced anxiety at some point in their lives, most do not develop long-term problems with anxiety.

Anxiety may cause psychiatric and physiological symptoms.

The risk of anxiety leading to depression could possibly even lead to an individual harming themselves, which is why there are many 24-hour suicide prevention hotlines.

The behavioural effects of anxiety may include withdrawal from situations which have provoked anxiety or negative feelings in the past. Other effects may include changes in sleeping patterns, changes in habits, increase or decrease in food intake, and increased motor tension (such as foot tapping).

The emotional effects of anxiety may include “feelings of apprehension or dread, trouble concentrating, feeling tense or jumpy, anticipating the worst, irritability, restlessness, watching (and waiting) for signs (and occurrences) of danger, and, feeling like your mind’s gone blank” as well as “nightmares/bad dreams, obsessions about sensations, déjà vu, a trapped-in-your-mind feeling, and feeling like everything is scary.” It may include a vague experience and feeling of helplessness.

The cognitive effects of anxiety may include thoughts about suspected dangers, such as fear of dying. “You may … fear that the chest pains are a deadly heart attack or that the shooting pains in your head are the result of a tumour or an aneurysm. You feel an intense fear when you think of dying, or you may think of it more often than normal, or can’t get it out of your mind.”

The physiological symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Neurological, as headache, paraesthesia’s, fasciculations, vertigo, or presyncope.
  • Digestive, as abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea, indigestion, dry mouth, or bolus.
  • Respiratory, as shortness of breath or sighing breathing.
  • Cardiac, as palpitations, tachycardia, or chest pain.
  • Muscular, as fatigue, tremors, or tetany.
  • Cutaneous, as perspiration, or itchy skin.
  • Uro-genital, as frequent urination, urinary urgency, dyspareunia, or impotence, chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Stress hormones released in an anxious state have an impact on bowel function and can manifest physical symptoms that may contribute to or exacerbate IBS.

Types of Anxiety

There are various types of anxiety. Existential anxiety can occur when a person faces angst, an existential crisis, or nihilistic feelings. People can also face mathematical anxiety, somatic anxiety, stage fright, or test anxiety. Social anxiety refers to a fear of rejection and negative evaluation by other people.

Existential

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, in The Concept of Anxiety (1844), described anxiety or dread associated with the “dizziness of freedom” and suggested the possibility for positive resolution of anxiety through the self-conscious exercise of responsibility and choosing. In Art and Artist (1932), the psychologist Otto Rank wrote that the psychological trauma of birth was the pre-eminent human symbol of existential anxiety and encompasses the creative person’s simultaneous fear of – and desire for – separation, individuation, and differentiation.

The theologian Paul Tillich characterised existential anxiety as “the state in which a being is aware of its possible nonbeing” and he listed three categories for the nonbeing and resulting anxiety: ontic (fate and death), moral (guilt and condemnation), and spiritual (emptiness and meaninglessness). According to Tillich, the last of these three types of existential anxiety, i.e. spiritual anxiety, is predominant in modern times while the others were predominant in earlier periods. Tillich argues that this anxiety can be accepted as part of the human condition or it can be resisted but with negative consequences. In its pathological form, spiritual anxiety may tend to “drive the person toward the creation of certitude in systems of meaning which are supported by tradition and authority” even though such “undoubted certitude is not built on the rock of reality”.

According to Viktor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, when a person is faced with extreme mortal dangers, the most basic of all human wishes is to find a meaning of life to combat the “trauma of nonbeing” as death is near.

Depending on the source of the threat, psychoanalytic theory distinguishes the following types of anxiety:

  • Realistic.
  • Neurotic.
  • Moral.

Test and Performance

According to Yerkes-Dodson law, an optimal level of arousal is necessary to best complete a task such as an exam, performance, or competitive event. However, when the anxiety or level of arousal exceeds that optimum, the result is a decline in performance.

Test anxiety is the uneasiness, apprehension, or nervousness felt by students who have a fear of failing an exam. Students who have test anxiety may experience any of the following: the association of grades with personal worth; fear of embarrassment by a teacher; fear of alienation from parents or friends; time pressures; or feeling a loss of control. Sweating, dizziness, headaches, racing heartbeats, nausea, fidgeting, uncontrollable crying or laughing and drumming on a desk are all common. Because test anxiety hinges on fear of negative evaluation, debate exists as to whether test anxiety is itself a unique anxiety disorder or whether it is a specific type of social phobia. The DSM-IV classifies test anxiety as a type of social phobia.

While the term “test anxiety” refers specifically to students, many workers share the same experience with regard to their career or profession. The fear of failing at a task and being negatively evaluated for failure can have a similarly negative effect on the adult. Management of test anxiety focuses on achieving relaxation and developing mechanisms to manage anxiety.

Stranger, Social, and Intergroup Anxiety

Humans generally require social acceptance and thus sometimes dread the disapproval of others. Apprehension of being judged by others may cause anxiety in social environments.

Anxiety during social interactions, particularly between strangers, is common among young people. It may persist into adulthood and become social anxiety or social phobia. “Stranger anxiety” in small children is not considered a phobia. In adults, an excessive fear of other people is not a developmentally common stage; it is called social anxiety. According to Cutting, social phobics do not fear the crowd but the fact that they may be judged negatively.

Social anxiety varies in degree and severity. For some people, it is characterised by experiencing discomfort or awkwardness during physical social contact (e.g. embracing, shaking hands, etc.), while in other cases it can lead to a fear of interacting with unfamiliar people altogether. Those suffering from this condition may restrict their lifestyles to accommodate the anxiety, minimising social interaction whenever possible. Social anxiety also forms a core aspect of certain personality disorders, including avoidant personality disorder.

To the extent that a person is fearful of social encounters with unfamiliar others, some people may experience anxiety particularly during interactions with outgroup members, or people who share different group memberships (i.e. by race, ethnicity, class, gender, etc.). Depending on the nature of the antecedent relations, cognitions, and situational factors, intergroup contact may be stressful and lead to feelings of anxiety. This apprehension or fear of contact with outgroup members is often called interracial or intergroup anxiety.

As is the case with the more generalised forms of social anxiety, intergroup anxiety has behavioural, cognitive, and affective effects. For instance, increases in schematic processing and simplified information processing can occur when anxiety is high. Indeed, such is consistent with related work on attentional bias in implicit memory. Additionally recent research has found that implicit racial evaluations (i.e. automatic prejudiced attitudes) can be amplified during intergroup interaction. Negative experiences have been illustrated in producing not only negative expectations, but also avoidant, or antagonistic, behaviour such as hostility. Furthermore, when compared to anxiety levels and cognitive effort (e.g. impression management and self-presentation) in intragroup contexts, levels and depletion of resources may be exacerbated in the intergroup situation.

Trait

Anxiety can be either a short-term ‘state’ or a long-term personality “trait”. Trait anxiety reflects a stable tendency across the lifespan of responding with acute, state anxiety in the anticipation of threatening situations (whether they are actually deemed threatening or not). A meta-analysis showed that a high level of neuroticism is a risk factor for development of anxiety symptoms and disorders. Such anxiety may be conscious or unconscious.

Personality can also be a trait leading to anxiety and depression. Through experience, many find it difficult to collect themselves due to their own personal nature.

Choice or Decision

Anxiety induced by the need to choose between similar options is increasingly being recognised as a problem for individuals and for organisations. In 2004, Capgemini wrote: “Today we’re all faced with greater choice, more competition and less time to consider our options or seek out the right advice.”

In a decision context, unpredictability or uncertainty may trigger emotional responses in anxious individuals that systematically alter decision-making. There are primarily two forms of this anxiety type. The first form refers to a choice in which there are multiple potential outcomes with known or calculable probabilities. The second form refers to the uncertainty and ambiguity related to a decision context in which there are multiple possible outcomes with unknown probabilities.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder may share symptoms of stress and anxiety, but it is actually very different. Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that occurs without any triggers. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, this disorder can be distinguished by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear. Someone who suffers from panic disorder will eventually develop constant fear of another attack and as this progresses it will begin to affect daily functioning and an individual’s general quality of life. It is reported by the Cleveland Clinic that panic disorder affects 2% to 3% of adult Americans and can begin around the time of the teenage and early adult years. Some symptoms include: difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, trembling or shaking, feeling faint, nausea, fear that you are losing control or are about to die. Even though they suffer from these symptoms during an attack, the main symptom is the persistent fear of having future panic attacks.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental disorders characterised by exaggerated feelings of anxiety and fear responses. Anxiety is a worry about future events and fear is a reaction to current events. These feelings may cause physical symptoms, such as a fast heart rate and shakiness. There are a number of anxiety disorders: including generalised anxiety disorder, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and selective mutism. The disorder differs by what results in the symptoms. People often have more than one anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are caused by a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. To be diagnosed, symptoms typically need to be present for at least six months, be more than would be expected for the situation, and decrease a person’s ability to function in their daily lives. Other problems that may result in similar symptoms include hyperthyroidism, heart disease, caffeine, alcohol, or cannabis use, and withdrawal from certain drugs, among others.

Without treatment, anxiety disorders tend to remain. Treatment may include lifestyle changes, counselling, and medications. Counselling is typically with a type of cognitive behavioural therapy. Medications, such as antidepressants or beta blockers, may improve symptoms.

About 12% of people are affected by an anxiety disorder in a given year and between 5%-30% are affected at some point in their life. They occur about twice as often in women than they do in men, and generally begin before the age of 25. The most common are specific phobia which affects nearly 12% and social anxiety disorder which affects 10% at some point in their life. They affect those between the ages of 15 and 35 the most and become less common after the age of 55. Rates appear to be higher in the United States and Europe.

Short- and Long-Term Anxiety

Anxiety can be either a short-term “state” or a long-term “trait”. Whereas trait anxiety represents worrying about future events, anxiety disorders are a group of mental disorders characterized by feelings of anxiety and fear.

Co-Morbidity

Anxiety disorders often occur with other mental health disorders, particularly major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, or certain personality disorders. It also commonly occurs with personality traits such as neuroticism. This observed co-occurrence is partly due to genetic and environmental influences shared between these traits and anxiety.

Anxiety is often experienced by those with obsessive compulsive disorder and is an acute presence in panic disorder.

Risk Factors

Anxiety disorders are partly genetic, with twin studies suggesting 30-40% genetic influence on individual differences in anxiety. Environmental factors are also important. Twin studies show that individual-specific environments have a large influence on anxiety, whereas shared environmental influences (environments that affect twins in the same way) operate during childhood but decline through adolescence. Specific measured ‘environments’ that have been associated with anxiety include child abuse, family history of mental health disorders, and poverty. Anxiety is also associated with drug use, including alcohol, caffeine, and benzodiazepines (which are often prescribed to treat anxiety).

Neuroanatomy

Neural circuitry involving the amygdala (which regulates emotions like anxiety and fear, stimulating the HPA Axis and sympathetic nervous system) and hippocampus (which is implicated in emotional memory along with the amygdala) is thought to underlie anxiety. People who have anxiety tend to show high activity in response to emotional stimuli in the amygdala. Some writers believe that excessive anxiety can lead to an overpotentiation of the limbic system (which includes the amygdala and nucleus accumbens), giving increased future anxiety, but this does not appear to have been proven.

Research upon adolescents who as infants had been highly apprehensive, vigilant, and fearful finds that their nucleus accumbens is more sensitive than that in other people when deciding to make an action that determined whether they received a reward. This suggests a link between circuits responsible for fear and also reward in anxious people. As researchers note, “a sense of ‘responsibility’, or self-agency, in a context of uncertainty (probabilistic outcomes) drives the neural system underlying appetitive motivation (i.e. nucleus accumbens) more strongly in temperamentally inhibited than noninhibited adolescents”.

The Gut-Brain Axis

The microbes of the gut can connect with the brain to affect anxiety. There are various pathways along which this communication can take place. One is through the major neurotransmitters. The gut microbes such as Bifidobacterium and Bacillus produce the neurotransmitters GABA and dopamine, respectively. The neurotransmitters signal to the nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract, and those signals will be carried to the brain through the vagus nerve or the spinal system. This is demonstrated by the fact that altering the microbiome has shown anxiety- and depression-reducing effects in mice, but not in subjects without vagus nerves.

Another key pathway is the HPA axis, as mentioned above. The microbes can control the levels of cytokines in the body, and altering cytokine levels creates direct effects on areas of the brain such as the hypothalmus, the area that triggers HPA axis activity. The HPA axis regulates production of cortisol, a hormone that takes part in the body’s stress response. When HPA activity spikes, cortisol levels increase, processing and reducing anxiety in stressful situations. These pathways, as well as the specific effects of individual taxa of microbes, are not yet completely clear, but the communication between the gut microbiome and the brain is undeniable, as is the ability of these pathways to alter anxiety levels.

With this communication comes the potential to treat anxiety. Prebiotics and probiotics have been shown to reduced anxiety. For example, experiments in which mice were given fructo- and galacto-oligosaccharide prebiotics and Lactobacillus probiotics have both demonstrated a capability to reduce anxiety. In humans, results are not as concrete, but promising.

Genetics

Genetics and family history (e.g. parental anxiety) may put an individual at increased risk of an anxiety disorder, but generally external stimuli will trigger its onset or exacerbation. Estimates of genetic influence on anxiety, based on studies of twins, range from 25%-40% depending on the specific type and age-group under study. For example, genetic differences account for about 43% of variance in panic disorder and 28% in generalised anxiety disorder. Longitudinal twin studies have shown the moderate stability of anxiety from childhood through to adulthood is mainly influenced by stability in genetic influence. When investigating how anxiety is passed on from parents to children, it is important to account for sharing of genes as well as environments, for example using the intergenerational children-of-twins design.

Many studies in the past used a candidate gene approach to test whether single genes were associated with anxiety. These investigations were based on hypotheses about how certain known genes influence neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and norepinephrine) and hormones (such as cortisol) that are implicated in anxiety. None of these findings are well replicated, with the possible exception of TMEM132D, COMT and MAO-A. The epigenetic signature of BDNF, a gene that codes for a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor that is found in the brain, has also been associated with anxiety and specific patterns of neural activity. and a receptor gene for BDNF called NTRK2 was associated with anxiety in a large genome-wide investigation. The reason that most candidate gene findings have not replicated is that anxiety is a complex trait that is influenced by many genomic variants, each of which has a small effect on its own. Increasingly, studies of anxiety are using a hypothesis-free approach to look for parts of the genome that are implicated in anxiety using big enough samples to find associations with variants that have small effects. The largest explorations of the common genetic architecture of anxiety have been facilitated by the UK Biobank, the ANGST consortium and the CRC Fear, Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders.

Medical Conditions

Many medical conditions can cause anxiety. This includes conditions that affect the ability to breathe, like COPD and asthma, and the difficulty in breathing that often occurs near death. Conditions that cause abdominal pain or chest pain can cause anxiety and may in some cases be a somatisation of anxiety; the same is true for some sexual dysfunctions. Conditions that affect the face or the skin can cause social anxiety especially among adolescents, and developmental disabilities often lead to social anxiety for children as well. Life-threatening conditions like cancer also cause anxiety.

Furthermore, certain organic diseases may present with anxiety or symptoms that mimic anxiety. These disorders include certain endocrine diseases (hypo- and hyperthyroidism, hyperprolactinemia), metabolic disorders (diabetes), deficiency states (low levels of vitamin D, B2, B12, folic acid), gastrointestinal diseases (celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, inflammatory bowel disease), heart diseases, blood diseases (anaemia), cerebral vascular accidents (transient ischemic attack, stroke), and brain degenerative diseases (Parkinson’s disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease), among others.

Substance-Induced

Several drugs can cause or worsen anxiety, whether in intoxication, withdrawal or as side effect. These include alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, sedatives (including prescription benzodiazepines), opioids (including prescription pain killers and illicit drugs like heroin), stimulants (such as caffeine, cocaine and amphetamines), hallucinogens, and inhalants. While many often report self-medicating anxiety with these substances, improvements in anxiety from drugs are usually short-lived (with worsening of anxiety in the long term, sometimes with acute anxiety as soon as the drug effects wear off) and tend to be exaggerated. Acute exposure to toxic levels of benzene may cause euphoria, anxiety, and irritability lasting up to 2 weeks after the exposure.

Psychological

Poor coping skills (e.g. rigidity/inflexible problem solving, denial, avoidance, impulsivity, extreme self-expectation, negative thoughts, affective instability, and inability to focus on problems) are associated with anxiety. Anxiety is also linked and perpetuated by the person’s own pessimistic outcome expectancy and how they cope with feedback negativity. Temperament (e.g. neuroticism) and attitudes (e.g. pessimism) have been found to be risk factors for anxiety.

Cognitive distortions such as overgeneralising, catastrophising, mind reading, emotional reasoning, binocular trick, and mental filter can result in anxiety. For example, an overgeneralised belief that something bad “always” happens may lead someone to have excessive fears of even minimally risky situations and to avoid benign social situations due to anticipatory anxiety of embarrassment. In addition, those who have high anxiety can also create future stressful life events. Together, these findings suggest that anxious thoughts can lead to anticipatory anxiety as well as stressful events, which in turn cause more anxiety. Such unhealthy thoughts can be targets for successful treatment with cognitive therapy.

Psychodynamic theory posits that anxiety is often the result of opposing unconscious wishes or fears that manifest via maladaptive defence mechanisms (such as suppression, repression, anticipation, regression, somatisation, passive aggression, dissociation) that develop to adapt to problems with early objects (e.g. caregivers) and empathic failures in childhood. For example, persistent parental discouragement of anger may result in repression/suppression of angry feelings which manifests as gastrointestinal distress (somatisation) when provoked by another while the anger remains unconscious and outside the individual’s awareness. Such conflicts can be targets for successful treatment with psychodynamic therapy. While psychodynamic therapy tends to explore the underlying roots of anxiety, cognitive behavioural therapy has also been shown to be a successful treatment for anxiety by altering irrational thoughts and unwanted behaviours.

Evolutionary Psychology

An evolutionary psychology explanation is that increased anxiety serves the purpose of increased vigilance regarding potential threats in the environment as well as increased tendency to take proactive actions regarding such possible threats. This may cause false positive reactions but an individual suffering from anxiety may also avoid real threats. This may explain why anxious people are less likely to die due to accidents. There is ample empirical evidence that anxiety can have adaptive value. Within a school, timid fish are more likely than bold fish to survive a predator.

When people are confronted with unpleasant and potentially harmful stimuli such as foul odours or tastes, PET-scans show increased blood flow in the amygdala. In these studies, the participants also reported moderate anxiety. This might indicate that anxiety is a protective mechanism designed to prevent the organism from engaging in potentially harmful behaviours.

Social

Social risk factors for anxiety include a history of trauma (e.g. physical, sexual or emotional abuse or assault), bullying, early life experiences and parenting factors (e.g. rejection, lack of warmth, high hostility, harsh discipline, high parental negative affect, anxious childrearing, modelling of dysfunctional and drug-abusing behaviour, discouragement of emotions, poor socialisation, poor attachment, and child abuse and neglect), cultural factors (e.g. stoic families/cultures, persecuted minorities including the disabled), and socioeconomics (e.g. uneducated, unemployed, impoverished although developed countries have higher rates of anxiety disorders than developing countries). A 2019 comprehensive systematic review of over 50 studies showed that food insecurity in the United States is strongly associated with depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Food-insecure individuals had an almost three (3) fold risk increase of testing positive for anxiety when compared to food-secure individuals.

Gender Socialisation

Contextual factors that are thought to contribute to anxiety include gender socialisation and learning experiences. In particular, learning mastery (the degree to which people perceive their lives to be under their own control) and instrumentality, which includes such traits as self-confidence, self-efficacy, independence, and competitiveness fully mediate the relation between gender and anxiety. That is, though gender differences in anxiety exist, with higher levels of anxiety in women compared to men, gender socialisation and learning mastery explain these gender differences.

Treatment

The first step in the management of a person with anxiety symptoms involves evaluating the possible presence of an underlying medical cause, whose recognition is essential in order to decide the correct treatment. Anxiety symptoms may mask an organic disease, or appear associated with or as a result of a medical disorder.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is effective for anxiety disorders and is a first line treatment. CBT appears to be equally effective when carried out via the internet. While evidence for mental health apps is promising, it is preliminary.

Psychopharmacological treatment can be used in parallel to CBT or can be used alone. As a general rule, most anxiety disorders respond well to first-line agents. First-line drugs are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. Benzodiazepines are not recommended for routine use. Other treatment options include pregabalin, tricyclic antidepressants, buspirone, moclobemide, and seratriline, among others.

Prevention

The above risk factors give natural avenues for prevention. A 2017 review found that psychological or educational interventions have a small yet statistically significant benefit for the prevention of anxiety in varied population types.

Pathophysiology

Anxiety disorder appears to be a genetically inherited neurochemical dysfunction that may involve autonomic imbalance; decreased GABA-ergic tone; allelic polymorphism of the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene; increased adenosine receptor function; increased cortisol.

In the central nervous system (CNS), the major mediators of the symptoms of anxiety disorders appear to be norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Other neurotransmitters and peptides, such as corticotropin-releasing factor, may be involved. Peripherally, the autonomic nervous system, especially the sympathetic nervous system, mediates many of the symptoms. Increased flow in the right parahippocampal region and reduced serotonin type 1A receptor binding in the anterior and posterior cingulate and raphe of patients are the diagnostic factors for prevalence of anxiety disorder.

The amygdala is central to the processing of fear and anxiety, and its function may be disrupted in anxiety disorders. Anxiety processing in the basolateral amygdala has been implicated with dendritic arborisation of the amygdaloid neurons. SK2 potassium channels mediate inhibitory influence on action potentials and reduce arborisation.

Emotional Information Processing & Assessment of Cognitive Functions in Social Anxiety Disorder

Research Paper Title

Emotional Information Processing and Assessment of Cognitive Functions in Social Anxiety Disorder: An Event-Related Potential Study.

Background

The aim of the study was to determine deficits in cognitive areas, including social cognition such as emotion recognition capacity, theory of mind, and electrophysiological alterations in patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD) and to identify their effects on clinical severity of SAD.

Methods

Enrolled in the study were 26 patients diagnosed with SAD and 26 healthy volunteers. They were administered the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS), Reading Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), and Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery. EEG monitoring was performed for electrophsiologic investigation.

Results

In the patient group, total reading the mind scores were lower (P = .027) while P300 latencies and emotion recognition latency during the Emotion Recognition Task (ERT) were longer (P = .038 and P = .012, respectively). The false alarm scores in the Rapid Visual Information Processing Task (RVP) were higher in the patient group (P = .038).

In a model created using multivariate linear regression analysis, an effect of ERT and RVP scores on LSAS scores was found.

Conclusions

The researches suggest the results of the study confirm that particularly impairment of cognitive functions such as sustained attention and emotion recognition may seriously affect the clinical presentation negatively. P300 latency in the parietal region may has the potential to be a biological marker that can be used in monitoring treatment.

Reference

Tetik, D., Gica, S., Bestepe, E.E., Buyukavsar, A. & Gulec, H. (2020) Emotional Information Processing and Assessment of Cognitive Functions in Social Anxiety Disorder: An Event-Related Potential Study. Emotional Information Processing and Assessment of Cognitive Functions in Social Anxiety Disorder: An Event-Related Potential Study. Clinical EEG and Neuroscience. doi: 10.1177/1550059420981506. Online ahead of print.

Book: Mental Toughness Training

Book Title:

Mental Toughness Training: How to be Emotionally Strong, Overcome Adversity and Start Controlling Your Life (Positive Psychology Coaching Series Book 23).

Author(s): Ian Tuhovsky (Author) and Sky Rodio Nutall (Editor).

Year: 2020.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Independently Published.

Type(s): Paperback, Audiobook, and Kindle.

Synopsis:

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Book: The Food Addict’s Meal Prep Manual

Book Title:

The Food Addict’s Meal Prep Manual: Save Yourself From Food Addiction In Only 2 Hours A Week.

Author(s): Dr. Joan Ifland (PhD).

Year: 2018.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: ?.

Type(s): Kindle.

Synopsis:

Research shows that addiction to processed foods explains why we overeat. Processed foods are everywhere which makes it very hard to break the food addiction cycle. It seems like people are pushing processed foods at every turn.

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