Brain surges are a weird sensation to experience. It can feel like a rush of blood to the head, or a flood or chemicals. It can catch us off guard or make us feel like we’ve stood up too fast or like we’re woozy and lightheaded. Although this sensation can happen for a variety of reasons, it has been linked to anxiety.
As with a lot of physical symptoms of anxiety, the triggers lie within our caveman brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases these stress chemicals and activates a response called the fight, flight or freeze response. The stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline are released and this puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze.
How Can Anxiety Cause Brain Surges?
There are a few ways that anxiety might cause brain surges. First of all, when we’re in fight, flight or freeze mode our heart rate increases, shunting blood around the body to the muscles and organs that need it most, including the brain. This sudden increase in blood flow may feel like a bit of a brain surge.
Another reason is that there’s a release of cortisol and adrenaline which can feel like a jolt of extra energy coming from the brain, thus creating the sensation of a brain surge.
Finally, when we’re in this survival mode our entire body becomes hyperstimulated. This means that any slight sensation that we experience feels much larger and much more intense than it actually might be. Logically, this is to help us be more alert to danger, but it can just highlight small sensations, blow them up and cause more anxiety and worry, therefore prolonging the physical symptoms of anxiety.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
As this symptom stems from our fight, flight or freeze response, the main thing that we can do to combat it is to focus on our breathing. This should calm our central nervous system, distract our mind from the perceived threat, and deactivate our fight, flight or freeze response allowing our system to desensitise and return to our natural balanced state, or homeostasis.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.