Tel Aviv: Anxious
people have been classified as hypersensitive, but they may
actually not be sensitive enough, reveals a study.
Tahl Frenkel, doctoral candidate in Tel Aviv University School of
Psychological Sciences, working under professor Yair Bar-Haim,
measured how the brain processes fear in anxious and non-anxious
Surprisingly, anxious participants in the study weren't shown to
be as physiologically sensitive to subtle changes in their
environment as less fearful individuals, explained Frenkel, the
journal Biological Psychology reported.
Non-anxious individuals seem to have a subconscious early warning
system, allowing them to prepare for evolving threats, a
university statement said.
Essentially, anxious people are surprised by fearful stimuli that
non-anxious individuals have already subconsciously noticed,
analyzed, and evaluated.
Researchers identified the 10 percent most anxious individuals and
10 percent least anxious to participate in the final study.
When confronted with a potential threat, non-anxious people
unconsciously notice subtle changes in the environment before they
consciously recognize the threat. Lacking such preparation,
anxious individuals often react more strongly, as the threat takes
them by surprise, explained Frenkel.
"The EEG results tell us that what looks like hypersensitivity on
a behavioural level is in fact the anxious person's attempt to
compensate for a deficit in the sensitivity of their perception,"