Apr 14, 2022

Are Rationalists Susceptible to Anxiety Disorders

anxiety disorders in atheists and rationalists

Even if there is no reason to be anxious, the possibility of the human mind accepting the same is very low.

As an atheist, I am not scared of God or death. However, thoughts as to what might happen in the future do trouble me a lot. Sometimes, I experience a great deal of discomfort, tension, and nervousness when I feel I am going to lose control of my mind. Sivakumar (name changed), who is a well-known rationalist and non-believer, says that feeling anxious like this is not only a handicap but also a weakness.

According to him, a rationalist should not have such thoughts. However, the anxiety that comes against his wishes does disturb him. Though he knows that these are unnecessary and disturbing thoughts, he is unable to neglect them. He is in a situation where he doesn't feel happy or have peace of mind. In addition, he experiences difficulties such as lack of sleep, sudden anger, an upset stomach, and inability to focus on something for long.

His life is becoming highly stressful because of the suppression of unnecessary, uncomfortable, and anxiety-causing thoughts. In this situation, he is unable to realize that excessive anxiety is an illness that causes behavioural problems. Disregarding internal conditions and assuming that you are a rationalist or an atheist or knowledgeable or ignorant can increase the complexity of your problems.

In fact, the human body has evolved and has developed physical responses to cope with dangerous and emergency situations. The nervous system, a network of nerves in humans, helps them deal with the threats posed by the outside world. When faced with threats, the adrenal medulla pumps a large quantity of adrenalin into the blood. This causes the heart to beat faster and stronger. Blood circulation increases. Blood sugar levels also increase. The trachea expands and the person starts breathing faster. However, abnormal functioning of the nervous system, which helps humans overcome dangers, can cause physical problems. Long-term anxiety impacts the performance of the brain and causes memory loss and depression. It also reduces a person's immunity level. Anxiety causes blood pressure to increase or decrease. The body's response to increased blood levels of adrenalin leads to the development of diabetes. The performance of the body's metabolic system is also affected.

The nervous system, which helps humans survive dangerous situations, can become active in other situations as well. When a human being thinks about his circumstances, relives the memories of his experiences and pains he has gone through, and the uncertainties of his future, the way his body responds to anxiety and fear is decided by how he responded to such stimuli over thousands of years of evolution. A modern man's body still has memories of the experiences of famine, diseases, wars, exoduses, and those days when they lived as prey to predators. Even if there are no threats now, humans respond in the same way they used to respond to threats or memories of their or others' experiences in the past. The hippocampus, a major component of the human brain, stores emotional experiences as memories. The brain triggers the production of stress hormones in the body when a person thinks about some of their emotional experiences. In such instances, he will neither have peace of mind nor the ability to think rationally. When emotional factors suppress the reasoning capability, the body automatically responds to survival instincts without being conscious of what is happening to him. That is why most people behave in an irrational manner. A person will not be able to analyze hundreds of possibilities and arrive at a rational decision when certain illnesses, hormonal disturbances, and stressful situations affect the normal functioning of the parts of the brain such as the hippocampus, amygdala, brain stem cells, papez circuit, and sympathetic nervous system that are activated to control the feelings of anxiety. Man's thoughts and actions are mainly guided by emotional and irrational factors.

As said before, the human brain is very unlikely to accept the fact that there is no reason to be anxious about anything. At the same time, a person who experiences less emotional stress and enjoys many happy moments in life and strong social support will be able to lead a colourful life. All these factors help to reduce anxiety as well. However, a person who frequently experiences anxiety attacks should undergo treatment. Cognitive behaviour therapy techniques, which train people to think and respond in a healthy manner, are extremely beneficial for anxiety treatment. Psychotherapy is an effective treatment for moderate levels of anxiety. However, a combination of psychotherapy and medications is essential for treating people who experience extremely high levels of anxiety. Mainly, antidepressant medications that are categorized as SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Prasad Amore
Prasad Amore

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