“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Brain Surges - Anxiety Symptoms

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: September 25, 2019


brain surges anxiety symptoms image

Brain surges - the feeling that the brain experienced a surge of energy or fluid can be a symptom of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and especially panic disorder (and others).

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your anxiety symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test or Anxiety Disorder Test. The higher the rating, the more likely it could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including having brain surges.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and brain surges.

Common Descriptions Of The Brain Surge Anxiety Symptoms:

  • It feels like there is a sudden and unexplained surge of chemicals that flood the brain.
  • It feels like the brain is being engorged with blood or other fluid for no apparent reason.
  • It feels like there is a sudden surge of “something” that makes the head and brain feel like they are being “flooded” and under pressure. This feeling can also be accompanied by a “dizzy” or “lightheaded” feeling.
  • It feels like the brain is suddenly flushed with adrenaline or cortisol, and that makes the head feel pressurized.
  • It feels like the head and brain have experienced a sudden surge of fluid or “pressure” that lasts a few moments and then subsides…only for it to occur later on.
  • Frequent head and brain “surge” feelings.

Brain surges symptoms can come and go rarely or occur frequently. For example, you get a “brain surge” feeling once in a while and not that often, or have it off and on.

Brain surges can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

The brain surges anxiety symptoms can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur "out of the blue" and for no apparent reason.

This symptom can also range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

Brain surges can change from day to day and from moment to moment.

This “brain surge” feeling can occur at any time of day or night.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

Why Does Anxiety Cause Brain Surge Symptoms?

Medical Advisory

1. Active Stress Response

The moment we believe we could be in danger, the body secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat – to either fight or flee. This survival reaction is the reason why the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response, the emergency response, or the fight, flight, or freeze response (some people freeze when they are afraid like a “deer caught in headlights”).[1][2]

The stress response causes many changes, includes shunting blood away from non-vital organs (stomach and digestive system, etc.) and to vital organs, which includes the brain. This shunting action can cause a sudden “surge” of blood to the brain, which can be felt as a “brain surge” symptom.

The stress response also increases blood pressure. A sudden change in blood pressure can be felt as a “brain surge.”

The stress response also affects neurotransmitter levels and electrical activity in parts of the brain. This change can be experienced as a “brain surge.”

Furthermore, stress hormones stimulate the nervous system, which includes the brain. Nervous system stimulation can feel like a surge that happens in the brain.

Any one, or combination thereof, of the above stress response actions can cause a “brain surge” feeling.

2. Hyperstimulation

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently, however, such as from overly apprehensive behavior, the body has a more difficult time recovering.

Interrupted recovery can cause the body to remain in a state of semi stress response readiness. We call this state “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are stimulants (also often referred to as "hyperarousal").[3][4] Hyperstimulation can cause the changes of an active stress response even though a stress response hasn’t been activated.

Frequent “brain surge” feelings are common for hyperstimulation (chronic stress).

3. Medication

Certain psychotropic and sleep medications can cause “brain surge” feelings as side effects.[5] It’s best to discuss your medication with your doctor if you suspect your “brain surges” are being caused by your medication.

How To Stop Brain Surge Anxiety Symptoms:

1. End The Active Stress Response

When this anxiety symptom is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the active stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this anxiety symptom should subside. Keep in mind it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. This is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

2. Eliminate Hyperstimulation

When this anxiety symptom is caused by chronic stress (hyperstimulation), such as from overly apprehensive behavior, it may take much longer for the body to calm down and recover, and to the point where this anxiety symptom subsides.

Nevertheless, as hyperstimulation is eliminated, the body stops producing symptoms of hyperstimulation, including brain surge symptoms.

3. Therapy

The number one reason why anxiety disorder and its symptoms persist is because of unidentified and unaddressed underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety. This is why dealing with your anxiety issues is the most important work overall if you desire lasting success.

Since the majority of stress comes from behavior (the ways we think and act), addressing the core reasons for anxiety disorder can reduce and eliminate the unhealthy stress that often leads to hyperstimulation and symptoms, including this one.

Keep in mind that eliminating anxiety symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve overcome issues with anxiety. Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. Eliminating anxiety symptoms means you’ve eliminated the unhealthy stress that is causing your symptoms. But if the underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety aren’t addressed, it’s just a matter of time until the body is overly stressed and symptomatic again.

Rebounds of symptoms and a return to a struggle with anxiety are caused for this very reason: the core issues that cause problematic anxiety haven’t been successfully addressed.

To eliminate issues with anxiety and symptoms once and for all, we need to eliminate the cause of problematic anxiety – the underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety. When you eliminate the cause of the problem, you eliminate the problem and the problem's symptoms.

If you have been struggling with anxiety and symptoms, we recommend connecting with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist to help you overcome your anxiety issues. Research has shown that working with an experienced therapist is an effective treatment for anxiety disorder.[6][7]

All of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists have personally experienced anxiety disorder and have overcome it. Their personal experience with anxiety disorder combined with their Masters Degree and above professional training makes them a good choice when desiring to overcome anxiety disorder and its symptoms.

Moreover, getting therapy via teletherapy, distanced therapy, or e-therapy (telephone or online therapy) is as effective, if not more so, than in-person therapy.[8][9]

All of our recommended anxiety therapists are experienced at working with clients via distanced therapy and new technologies. We’ve found distanced therapy to be especially effective when working with anxious clients.

Research has also shown that self-help information can also be beneficial.[10][11] For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including this one, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


Additional Resources:


Return to Anxiety Disorders Signs and Symptoms section.


REFERENCES:

1. Selye H. Endocrine reactions during stress. Anesthesia & Analgesia. 1956;35:182–193. [PubMed]

2. Folk, Jim and Folk, Marilyn. “The Stress Response And Anxiety Symptoms.” anxietycentre.com, August 2019.

3. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.

4. Yaribeygi, Habib, et al. “The Impact of Stress on Body Function: A Review.” EXCLI Journal, Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, 2017.

5. NIDA. (2012, April 19). "Well-Known Mechanism Underlies Benzodiazepines' Addictive Properties."" 25 Sep. 2019

6. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012.

7. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017.

8. Thompson, Ryan Baird, "Psychology at a Distance: Examining the Efficacy of Online Therapy" (2016). University Honors Theses. Paper 285.

9. Kingston, Dawn.“Advantages of E-Therapy Over Conventional Therapy.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Dec. 2017.

10. C., Lewis, et al. "Efficacy, cost-effectiveness and acceptability of self-help interventions for anxiety disorders: systematic review." British Journal of Psychiatry, Jan. 2012.

11. Kumar, Shefali, et al. "Mobile and traditional cognitive behavioral therapy programs for generalized anxiety disorder: A cost-effectiveness analysis." Journal PLOS, 4 Jan. 2018.