People with anxiety disorders have difficultly reading emotions of others, finds study
June 21st, 2017
Filed under: Anxiety, Anxiety disorder, Mental Health, treatment by Rachael

Experiencing a constant state of worry, nervousness, fear and suspicion can be overwhelming. It may affect one’s day-to-day activities due to significant impairments in cognitive skills and brain functions. Also known as anxiety disorders, a constant nervousness and anxiety can be detrimental to one’s mental well-being causing symptoms, such as panic, fear, shortness of breath, not being able to stay calm, heart palpitations, etc.

And now a recent study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science in May 2017 suggested that a person suffering from anxiety disorders faces challenges in identifying emotions of others. The study confirmed that experiencing anxiety can lead to poor recognition of emotions, where the suffering individual can even interpret happiness to be anger on other’s faces.

Effects of anxiety on emotional quotient

Expressions speak a lot about one’s personality than words actually do. Hence, many a times, people try to understand the emotions of their near and dear ones just by reading their facial expressions. Emotional expressions are a rich source of information that enables the viewers to infer other’s thoughts. Further, expressions are also helpful in judging the intention of others, thereby acting as a defensive tool. People suffering from anxiety disorders have reduced sense of identifying facial expressions of others, and hence, it can be extremely difficult for them to isolate one type of expression from another.

Often, people suffering from anxiety are thought to be self-centered individuals. However, studies have shown that anxiety works to impair the emotional face recognition, which reduces a person’s ability to read the expressions correctly. The impaired perceptions are often associated with negative social behavior.

As part of the study, the researchers evaluated 21 participants to understand the impact of anxiety-related disorders on their ability to recognize emotional expressions. Anxiety-related symptoms were induced in each participant by exposing them to air rich in carbon dioxide. In the first part of the study, the participants were shown 15 images of a man’s face with expressions ranging from anger, sadness and surprise to disgust, fear and happiness. Each participant was then asked to assign each face to one of the six emotions.

In the second part, the participants were presented with 45 images featuring 15 faces that showed emotions ranging between the two extremes of anger and happiness. Next, the participants were asked to judge the expression. It was observed that the participants’ ability to accurately identify the emotion of someone’s face deteriorated by 8 percent. Also, most of them associated ambiguous facial expressions with anger, rather than happiness. “Anxiety causes a global decrease in emotion recognition and a bias toward identifying anger in ambiguous facial expressions,” observed the study.

Leading an anxiety-free life is possible

Living with anxiety disorder is a big burden, but it is possible to treat these mental problems. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental disorders affecting nearly 40 million American adults, aged 18 years and above, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). However, not all of them avail the necessary treatment which aggravates the condition further. Anxiety and other related mental health conditions that vex individuals can be effectively regulated by following appropriate treatment procedures and coping strategies built on the new and deeper understanding of anxiety.

Therefore, it is important to seek treatment for anxiety at the earliest, as an untreated condition can lead to more serious and irrecoverable conditions. If you or your loved one is struggling with any anxiety disorder, contact the Anxiety Treatment Advisors of Colorado to access a variety of evidence-based treatment plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-891-2539 or chat online with our medical experts to connect with the best anxiety disorders treatment centers in Colorado.

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