It is indeed a pathetic scenario about those that still believes the saying that people affected with mental health conditions are “all in their head.” To change the notion, a new research published in the Current Biology journal has definitely changed the narrative. It is observed that those people who have anxiety perceive the world differently because of differences in their brain. In fact, the study reveals that people with anxiety disorder could (without knowing) refer harmless things as threat or danger that can even fuel/increase their anxiety. That means they see things that are normal and un-harmful as a danger to them.
The study also reveals that people diagnosed with anxiety are less able to differentiate between a neutral “safe” stimulus and threatening ones. Psychologists are of the opinion that there is several class of clinical anxiety and the most common one is generalized anxiety disorder (known as GAD) where people just naturally and consistently feel very disturbed or anxious even when it seems like there’s nothing disturbing them. It is suggested that anxiety disorders mayarise from a process called overgeneralization. Overgeneralization is regard as a behavioral phenomenon where people are confronted with emotional experiences to the extent that the brain observes both safe and unsafe things together and regard them all unsafe.
Meanwhile, researches are of the opinion that such reaction is not a case that any anxious person can control; it is a fundamental brain difference.
In the quest to find out the style of over-generalization, Paz and his fellow trained some people with anxiety to associate three distinct tones with one of three outcomes: money loss, money gain, or no consequence. In the next phase, the participants were presented with one of 15 tones and were asked whether they’d heard the tone before in training or not. If they were right, they were rewarded with money. A person would score highest if they would not mistake (or over-generalize) a new tone for one they’d heard in the training phase. After the experiment, the researchers were able to understand that anxious participants had a higher likelihood than non-anxious individuals of confusing the new sounds with the old ones. This is not linkable to a learning disability or hearing problem, but rather a misperception in the tones they heard. They simply linked the sounds associated with money loss or gain to the new sounds which lead to confusion.
Also during the study, researchers recorded brain scans during the testing phase and they found some differences between anxious and non-anxious brains. While they were focused on parsing new information, anxious people showed more activation in several parts of the brain, including the amygdala, a region associated with fear and worry.
According to the press release issued out by the team leader Rony Paz after the study, he said “We show that in patients with anxiety, emotional experience induces plasticity in brain circuits that lasts after the experience is over”. He further explained that “Such plastic changes occur in primary circuits that later mediate the response to new stimuli, resulting in an inability to discriminate between the originally experienced stimulus and a new similar stimulus. Therefore, anxiety patients respond emotionally to such new stimuli as well, resulting in anxiety even in apparently irrelevant new situations. Importantly, they cannot control this, as it is a perceptual inability to discriminate”.
As we’ve seen, this new research help to buttress the notion that people are not really the cause of their mental illness, in fact it is often related to genetic and psychological causes so they shouldn’t be apologetic about that, also those going through such conditions use to have dramatic differences in their brains. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 25% of people with a mental health disorder feel like others understand what they go through daily.
Let us discuss other ways that people with anxiety perceives the world differently:
- They see social life as intimidation: Those anxious people always find it difficult to understand the social phenomenon and they easily misunderstand body languages. They always feel people are actually gossiping about them even though it might not be true and as a result, they find it hard and to hang out with people because they are always not interested in social outings.
- They prefer to stay inside house rather than hanging out with their friends: Those that are not anxious are always ready and eager to go to places and spend time with friends. This seems not possible to anxious people as they are satisfied spending their time inside without going out with friends and family.
- They always think people have bad intention: People with anxiety rarely believe anyone. In fact, they always find it hard to keep a long friendship/relationship as they do think their secrets are not safe with people and always in doubt with people. Some of them might feel like people have bad intentions for them and will take advantage of them if they get too close so If they do have friends, it will take a long time for them to feel comfortable getting close to them.