Got Anxiety? Thank a Caveman

A few years back, cave men and women lived in environments where they were snacks for large, fast predators (saber tooth tigers, alligators and pterodactyls, oh my!). The cave people who could quickly detect these threats and respond appropriately were more likely to survive and pass on their adaptive threat detection abilities to their cave children.

When a cave person’s brain detected a threat, it would fire up, giving them the energy to prepare for the danger and fight the predator or run away (fight or flight response). When the danger passed, their bodies calmed back down.

These days we have two parts of our brain involved in this threat detection process- the lizard brain and the thinking brain. The lizard brain (primitive brain) is where breathing, fear, and anxiety originate. Our thinking brain (frontal lobe) is sophisticated and intelligent.

Sometimes our primitive brain goes into overdrive, jump starting our survival instincts. Parts of our thinking brain are cut off, which is actually essential for our survival during threatening situations. For example, if we are being chased by a tiger, we don’t want our thinking brain to start over-analyzing the situation or debating which way to run. Our brain wants to us to survive. (Don’t think, live!)

As much as humans have evolved, our lizard brain has changed very little. Triggers are rarely needed for us to “stay alive” and instead are just fear-based thinking. Our primitive brain cannot tell if the triggers are real or imagined so it floods us with adrenaline and changes our breathing and muscle tension to prepare for an attack that doesn’t happen. The result? Anxiety.

Learn more about causes of anxiety and ways to control it. Call now to schedule an appointment with a therapist at Yurk Counseling Services.  In the meantime, I am going to watch the Flintstones. BRB.


Love yourself. You deserve it.

Tina Gray-Siebers, MS, LPC, NCC