Anxiety can cause the sufferer to wrongly feel someone is angry with them, study shows
- Anxiety leads people to think someone is cross with them when they are not
- University of Bristol researchers studied 48 participants, half had raised tendency to worry
- Researchers said being stressed might affect how brains process threat
Feeling anxious can make you less likely to recognise what emotion someone is displaying, a study has found.
Stress levels rise on occasions such as a job interview, giving a public speech or meeting someone for the first time.
If you believe people are not enjoying your company, or appear a bit cross, it can make you even more anxious.
Researchers from the University of Bristol studied 48 participants, half of whom had a raised tendency to worry. When these participants were anxious they were more likely to misread facial expressions, perceiving the faces as angry rather than happy, the Royal Society journal reports.
The researchers said being stressed might affect how our brains process threat.
Perceiving anger instead of happiness – thinking someone is frowning or staring – may evoke the wrong feelings, potentially harming relationships. ‘Misinterpreting social cues… could have negative emotional and social consequences,’ they wrote.
If you believe people are not enjoying your company, or appear a bit cross, it can make you even more anxious (stock image)
The researchers, led by Dr Maddy Dyer, said being stressed might have an impact on how our brains process threat, which could partially explain their results.
The findings could have implications in stressful situations like job interviews and clinical settings, they added.
‘Our findings may have social and clinical implications,’ they said.
‘Several social situations that involve facial emotion processing can arouse state anxiety for many people, such as public speaking and interviews.’
The researchers added: ‘For example, perceiving anger instead of happiness – by thinking someone is frowning or staring – or failing to detect happiness in neutral or ambiguous faces, could signal rejection or disinterest and lead to negative feelings and emotions in the observer.
‘This could lead to inappropriate or blunted reactions during social interactions or behavioural avoidance, which may evoke negative reactions from others, thus potentially impacting attachments and relationships.’
The researchers, led by Dr Maddy Dyer, said being stressed might have an impact on how our brains process threat, which could partially explain their results (stock image)