A recent New York Times article sheds light on a possible reason for chronic anxiety. It reports that only a minority of us have what they call “the feel good gene”. The genetic variation in the brain they’re talking about is having less of the enzyme called FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase), which in turn results in an increased level of anandamide.
What is anandamide?
According to medical dictionaries, it’s “a derivative of arachidonic acid that occurs naturally in the brain and in some foods (as chocolate) and that binds to the same brain receptors as the cannabinoids (as THC)”. No wonder it’s called “the bliss molecule or our natural marijuana”.
It has two main benefits: it makes some feel less anxious and more able to forget fearful experiences.
A group of researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College studied the affect of the FAAH variant gene. They found that it enhances the connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, which results in lower anxiety. They also found another benefit – it enhances fear extinction. If this can be tapped into, people who have suffered from traumatic life experiences could recover more quickly. They released their study results in a recent edition of Nature Communications.
We all have anandamide, however it’s estimated that 20 percent of U.S. adults have more. Not surprisingly, some who don’t possess this genetic variation self-medicate with other substances, such as marijuana, to relieve their anxiety.
Does this mean you have no choice? That you’re genetically predisposed to use marijuana? Not at all. Everyone has a choice. You can choose to rely on marijuana, which dulls your cognitive abilities or you can learn other methods to manage your anxiety, such as meditation or retraining your brain. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to learn what all of your options are for living without chronic anxiety.
Read more on my website: Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, and Phobias.