People see anxiety as a bad thing, and for many, it’s completely debilitating. But according to some research, anxiety may actually be a type of sixth sense, a quick reaction to danger or other potential issues.
The brain reacts to stuff pretty quickly. Certain parts of the brain react to danger as fast as within 200 milliseconds. That’s pretty quick! Even more astonishing was that people who experience anxiety experienced a completely different reaction to danger than their non-anxious counterparts.
The reason why is fascinating. People with anxiety process threats in an area of the brain that also governs action. People without anxiety process threats in the part of the brain responsible for face recognition. This is why a calm person recognizes the threat of another person based on how their face looks. If they’re angry or threatening looking, they get a strong sense about them.
“In a crowd, you will be more sensitive to an angry face looking toward you but less alert to an angry person looking somewhere else,” says Marwa El Zein of the French Institute of Medical Research. “In contrast to our previous work, our findings demonstrates that the brain devotes more processing resources to negative emotions that signal threat, rather than any display of emotions.”
So far, 1800 trials have been carried out with the intent to measure the reaction of different emotions. One of the more interesting findings from the trials revealed that in fact non-clinical anxiety did not impair the brain’s ability to recognize threats, but heightened the ability.
So as a result, anxiety can be seen as a type of sixth sense that helps us detect danger.