The body is filled with numerous chemicals of various types, such as hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters. Chemical imbalances happen due to diseases, injuries, aging, chronic stress and poor nutrition. When most people talk of chemical imbalance, especially doctors and researchers, they’re referring to an imbalance of neurotransmitters or chemical messengers of the brain.
Chemical imbalances exist because the neural pathway systems of the brain sometimes lead to emotional pain (such as anxiety) and irrational conclusions. We can say that no one is “born” with social anxiety. You may remember circumstances and events from very early in life, but there is no “gene” that codes for social anxiety, and there is not an immutable set of genes that cause social anxiety to occur.
We can also say that some people have a predisposition toward anxiety symptoms in general. From what we know, this is not a predisposition to social anxiety, but rather a predisposition to be anxious in general. Why you develop social anxiety has more to do with environment than it has to do with genetics. However, there are always interactive combinations occurring.
Now, how do brain chemicals, neurochemistry, and “imbalances” of brain chemistry fit here?
Your neural pathways and associations influence and decide which neurochemicals, and at what “strength” pass through the synapse. It’s important to understand that your neurochemistry is determined by your neural pathways and associations, not the other way around.
Medication or pills can change your brain chemistry temporarily, but they have no power to change neural pathways or associations. There is no long-term cure for social anxiety in medication. There is a temporary, chemical change in your brain brought about by the medication. But it lasts only as long as the medication lasts, from four hours to longer periods. But it is never permanent. You always need to take another pill to get the same effect.
The only permanent solution is to change your neural pathways and associations. This can only be done by learning new strategies, rational concepts, and new methods to extinguish social anxiety. Then, these new strategies and methods must be practiced and practiced. Repetition, folks. Without repetition, neural pathways and associations cannot change. To have a permanent solution for social anxiety, our neural pathways and associations MUST change.
When our neural pathways and associations change, our brain chemistry also changes. This then turns into a permanent change, because you have practiced the new methods and concepts into your brain repetitiously, therefore creating new neural associations. The denser these neural associations are, the more you have recovered from social anxiety.
Everything in life works like this. Whatever you really learn causes new neural pathways in the brain, and, over time, with repetition, you gradually become better and better at something.
Maintaining a balance in these brain chemicals and hormones is key to feeling a balanced mood. You can help maintain this health to some extent through a balanced diet, limited stress, and exercise. Here are some things to focus on before automatically turning to medication and pills:
- Exercise more often.When you have anxiety or depression, exercise may not be high on your priority list, but research shows that it can make a big impact on mood by stimulating and/or balancing numerous chemicals and neurotransmitters in the body.
- Consume more omega-3 fatty acids.Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fats, which means your body (particularly your brain) needs them to function normally, but the body can’t make them.
- Make sure you’re not vitamin D deficient.Vitamin D is necessary for a variety of body functions including calcium absorption, healthy immune response and normal mood fluctuations. In fact, vitamin D is much more hormone-like in its actions than any other vitamin and a lack of it has been linked to depression as well as other mental disorders.
- Eat your veggies. If you are feeling depressed or anxious and realize that your thoughts and behaviors are not healthy, then consider plant-based therapy to help balance your brain chemistry.