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What everyone with anxiety needs to know about their 5 senses

WOMAN ANXIETY
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This disorder can actually affect the way you process the world.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders, affecting 18.1 percent of the adult population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Though everyone experiences some level of anxiety in their life, studies show that people diagnosed with an anxiety disorder might actually perceive the world differently. Here’s what you need to know:

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel conducted an experiment to see how people with anxiety interpret sensory information. The volunteers were played three sounds to represent losing money, gaining money, and no change. Later, they were played 15 sounds and asked if the sound was new or not.

What they discovered was that the participants with anxiety were less able to distinguish between previously heard sounds and new ones. This was also linked to responses in the amygdala, an area of the brain associated with fear and anxiety. The sensory perception of the people with anxiety was setting off an emotional response, even with a neutral stimulus, because they were less able to distinguish the two.

If you live with anxiety, you might be familiar with the feeling that your brain is seriously overcompensating when it comes to keeping you safe, making you feel afraid of any number of benign things. The reality is that it actually is overcompensating, because it’s struggling to distinguish new stimuli from old ones.

We can’t control how our brains process things, but hopefully a greater understanding of the brain will motivate researchers toward improved treatments for those who live with these disorders.

Read more: How anxiety thwarts gratitude and joy, and our interior well-being

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