Anxiety: “Let’s get to the root of the problem”
PSTD is among a variety of anxiety problems that clinicians are seeking innovations in treatment for, especially in light of the Iraq War. Generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder result from both our environments as well as genetics. Anxiety is so familiar to us, so integral to our survival; separating environmental influences from genetics to truly discover the underlying cause of anxiety is a difficult task.
Many of the drugs that are currently used, such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants, work to deal with the symptoms of anxiety rather than the origin. However, now scientists are looking for drugs that affect the mechanisms that cause anxiety. Currently researchers are experimenting with propranolol, which is a heart disease drug that disrupts the action of stress hormones like epinephrine, for example. The following is an excerpt of an interesting article from The New York Times that further discusses developments in anxiety research and treatment:
Researchers have been experimenting with a heart disease drug called propranolol, for instance, which interferes with the action of stress hormones like epinephrine. Stress hormones are central to the human response to threat; they prime the body to fight or run, and appear to deepen the neural roots of a terrifying memory in the brain. When the memory returns, these hormones flood again into the bloodstream.
But in one series of studies, people with P.T.S.D. who took propranolol reacted more calmly — on measures of heart rate and sweat gland activity — upon revisiting a painful memory than did similar subjects who took a dummy pill. By blocking receptors on brain cells that are sensitive to stress hormones, experts theorize, the drug may have taken the sting out of the frightening recollections.
Propranolol has not been proved to reliably ease the effects of trauma, but the investigation of such drugs is only beginning. Another candidate, an antibiotic called D-cycloserine, may help severely anxious patients alter the way they think about and react to current everyday concerns.