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Anxiety-ridden people are under-sensitive?


Most anxious people live with the reputation for being touchy and overly sensitive. However, new research from Tel Aviv University suggests that we may have it all backwards. Anxious people aren’t sensitive enough.

In a new study about how the brain processes fear Tahl Frenkel, PhD candidate in TAU’s School of Psychological Sciences and the Adler Center for Research in Child Developmental and Psychopathology, measured brain activity via EEG while participants were being shown pictures created to cause fear and anxiety. Researchers were able to see the neuronal activity that revealed deep processing of the stimuli. They discovered that the anxiety group was actually less stimulated by the fear inducing images than the control group.

“The EEG results tell us that what looks like hypersensitivity on a behavioral level is in fact the anxious person’s attempt to compensate for a deficit in the sensitivity of their perception,” explained Frenkel.

It surprised researchers that the anxious study participants weren’t as sensitive to changes in the environment as their less fearful counterparts. Anxious people could have a deficit in their threat evaluation capabilities. This is the ability to make effective decisions and process fear. With a deficit in these reactions, they under react to subtle threatening stimuli. It may be that non-anxious people have an early warning system which is not active in the anxious people and this allows them to prepare for alarming and unexpected events. Basically, anxious people are not as prepared as non-anxious people for stressful situations.

Source: TAU, MedicalNewsToday

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