Over-Thinking Causes Anxious Girls To ‘Burn Out', Claims Study

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According to recent research by Michigan State University, female brains in a state of anxiety work much harder and are more prone to making mistakes, compared to the (less worried) brains' of boys.

In a discovery that could help in the identification and treatment of anxiety disorders, researchers enlisted the help of 79 female students and 70 males to investigate the correlation between worrying and error-related brain responses in both sexes.

During the study, the volunteers' brain activity was measured by an electrode cap.

Participants were asked to identify the middle letter in a series of five-letter groups on a computer screen. Sometimes the middle letter was the same as the other four ("FFFFF") while sometimes it was different ("EEFEE").

Volunteers were also asked to complete a questionnaire rating how much and often they worry.

Although the worrisome female volunteers performed the same as the males on the tasks, researchers discovered their brains had to work harder at it.

As the test became more difficult, the brain's of the girls who felt the most anxious performed worse suggesting that worry and anxiety got in the way of completing the task.

Girls who identified themselves as 'big worriers' recorded high brain activity when they made mistakes during the task.

Jason Moser, the lead author of the study, said the findings may ultimately help mental health professionals determine which girls may be prone to anxiety problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety.

"This may help predict the development of anxiety issues later in life for girls," Moser said in a statement. "It's one more piece of the puzzle for us to figure out why women in general have more anxiety disorders."

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Researchers are further investigating whether oestrogen - the female hormone - could be to blame for the increased brain response in women, as it is a key neurotransmitter which controls learning ability and processes mistakes.

"This may end up reflecting hormone differences between men and women," adds Moser.

The study, published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology.

According to Anxiety UK, one in six Brits suffer from some form of anxiety and 13% will develop anxiety at some point in their life.

"Whether you have too many things to do and not enough time to do them, or don’t give yourself the time to eat properly, or you have difficult relationships at home or at work, the source of stress and anxiety is different for each of us," explains author of Soul-Centred: Transform Your Life in Eight Weeks with Meditation.

"Though each one of us has different stressors, the effects of stress are what we might have in common. Stress, sometimes called the silent killer, has been blamed for all kinds of illnesses and disease: high blood pressure, depression, insomnia, and anxiety to name a few. And we want to avoid those."

If you're prone to worry and suffer from over-thinking anxiety, take a look at these top tips on tackling stress by Sarah McLean.

Reduce Stress & Enhance Your Self-Awareness
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