n African Journal of Psychiatry - Autonomic nervous system status and responsiveness and the levels of anxiety in a normal population : scientific letter

Volume 16, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1994-8220



We live in times of deadlines and information overload. Many individuals are mentally and emotionally overextended with conscious - or subconscious - feelings of apprehension and worry chronically present. The increased heart rate associated with certain psychological states and disorders has, until recently, primarily been ascribed to increases in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. However, it is now accepted that decreases in parasympathetic control, that is, decreases in the autonomic 'brake' on heart rate, are much more important than previously assumed. Perhaps of greater concern with regard to anxiety disorders are indications of an autonomic inflexibility or decreased responsiveness in the face of a challenge. In view of the importance of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) to instantaneously regulate many functions in line with mental and physical needs, lower responsiveness could have a significant influence on physical and psychological well-being. The question is whether anxiety, within the normative range, has an impact on resting ANS functioning and on the ANS responses to moderate everyday challenges.

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