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Study: Social Anxiety Sufferers Are More Sensitive To Negative Comments

Posted Jan 11 2009 5:21pm

Tribute To Guitarist Pat Martino - Scan 03 07

It’s bound to happen at some point in everyone’s life. Somebody makes a negative comment and it hurts your feelings in a big way. But according to a new study conducted by researchers affiliated with the National Institute Of Mental Health social anxiety sufferers react more to these types of comments.

The study subjects were split into two groups - those with and without social anxiety disorder. The two groups were shown a series of negative comments and those without an anxiety disorder were found to react far less negatively than their anxious counterparts.

The researchers used functional brain scans (fMRI) to show that when an anxiety sufferer was told things like “you are ugly” or “he’s a genius” the brain showed a heightened reaction. The researchers were not hurling insults for kicks either, they were trying to determine what part of the brain lights up during an anxious emotional response.

When an anxious person was shown a negative comment the parts of the brain responsible for controlling self evaluation and emotional response fired more powerfully than they do in people without anxiety disorders. It seems that a negative reaction to negative comments was a ‘brain jerk’ reaction for social phobians.

The goal of the study is to find better ways of treating all forms of anxiety disorder by pinpointing what parts of the brain are involved in making people anxious.

This study also shed some light on something I’ve experienced a great deal and that’s emotional sensitivity. Not to say that running and crying is my thing, but it is to say that when I feel slighted or wronged I tend to hang on to the feeling and create a grudge against the offender.

It appears that anxious people are overly sensitive but not because they choose to be, at least not fully. The researchers involved in this study plan to continue their work with brain scans to see if they can reveal even more about this still very poorly understood condition.

Are you a very sensitive person? Do you think your sensitive because if your anxiety?

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