10 Things We Learned About Anxiety in 2016

Health Writer
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Have anxiety? You might walk favoring the left

People with anxiety tend to walk with a left trajectory, according to a study completed at the School of Psychology at the University of Kent. Participants were asked to walk in a straight line toward a target while blindfolded. Those with anxiety tended to veer to the left, indicating greater activation of the right side of the brain.

People with anxiety perceive stimuli differently

People with anxiety mistakenly associate new and safe stimuli with a negative event from the past, according to researchers in Israel. Participants in a study were taught to associate certain tones with either money loss or money gain. When new tones were introduced, those with anxiety mistakenly associated the new tones with the previous tones.

Anxiety can lead to bad decision making

Many studies about anxiety revolve around calming fears. However, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh looked at decision making, instead. By observing rats that were given an anxiety-producing drug, they found that anxiety causes poor decision making by numbing parts of the brain that are helpful when making choices.

Could probiotics help treat PTSD and anxiety?

It is possible the the bacteria in our guts can affect our level of anxiety and our risk of developing PTSD. Scientists in Canada tested this theory on mice. They found that mice that were highly stressed had less gut bacteria. When treated with probiotics, their anxiety levels dropped significantly.

Online cognitive behavioral therapy just as effective as face-to-face programs

Researchers divided study participants into three groups: one using an online CBT program alone; the second using the same program in conjunction with a support group; the third receiving care from a doctor. Results showed that those participating in the online program had significant improvements over those cared for by a doctor alone.

Women and young adults have greatest risk of anxiety

Women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety and those who are under the age of 35 have the greatest risk. Other groups with a high risk include those with a serious medical condition, according to a review of previous studies completed at the University of Cambridge.

Helping children overcome dental anxiety

Children who watched cartoons through video glasses experienced significantly less anxiety than children who did not receive a distraction. The children who watched cartoons experienced less physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety when they were distracted by cartoons.

Predicting whether you will benefit from psychotherapy via brain scans

Why do some people with anxiety benefit from psychotherapy while others don’t? Scientists at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, are working on a way to predict whether or not a person will benefit from psychotherapy based on brain activity.

Several types of anxiety disorders share an underlying characteristic: fear of the unknown

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that a number of anxiety disorders (panic disorder, social anxiety and specific phobias) all have the underlying characteristic of the fear of the unknown. By addressing this issue, rather than the specific anxiety disorder, treatment might become more effective.

Rapid breathing might help you process fearful situations faster

When faced with a dangerous or fearful situation, our breathing automatically becomes more rapid. Scientists have found that fear is recognized faster when inhaling through the nose than when exhaling or breathing through the mouth. Rapid breathing means you inhale more often, which can help to process fearful situations quicker.


Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHDIdiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral TherapyEssential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.