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Home » Dr. Snider's Blog Posts » Anxiety and The Autonomic Nervous System

Anxiety and The Autonomic Nervous System

What's a body to do? Fight? Flight? Rest? Restore? What determines which way to go?

The answer to all of these questions lies in the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) . The ANS is the branch of the nervous system that is responsible for control of the bodily functions not consciously directed. It consists of two branches - the sympathetic (fight or flight) branch, and the parasympathetic (rest and restore) branch. Using an automotive analogy, the sympathetic system acts like the gas pedal and the parasympathetic acts as the brakes.

Life is good when these two systems work in harmony. However, when they are out of balance, symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts manifest. Peripheral awareness decreases or even disappears. Sports performance may deteriorate while school and work performance becomes more taxing.

The Neuro-Integrative Evaluation conducted at the Snider Therapy Centers (STC) includes tests to assess ANS function. Two areas which provide information include pupil testing and functional visual field testing.

1. The normally functioning pupil is an example of the ANS in perfect balance. However, a percentage of otherwise healthy patients may have larger-than-normal ('dilated') pupils which is a direct indicator of an out-of-control sympathetic system. These individuals are in fight or flight mode, which generally indicates chronic stress.

2. Reduced functioning visual fields are also an indicator of an imbalanced ANS as a response to stress.

Stress? "What kind of stress?" you might be wondering. Here at STC, we are checking for sensory processing stressors - specifically visual, auditory, and vestibular. However, patients may also have a history of physical and/or emotional trauma, toxin exposure, TBI, or food sensitivities, to name a few. The good news is that our bodies have been designed to handle stress. When uncontrolled stress impacts the ANS, we at STC have been blessed to know which tests to conduct and which treatments to offer to restore balance to the ANS.

What's a body to do? Function in balance and harmony