Stress Can Blind You to Danger

Stress Can Blind You to Danger

In a finding that challenges the belief that stress heightens your ability to spot danger, researchers report it did the opposite in lab experiments.

Mental Health Does Not Come With A Manual, It Comes With Friends & Family Support That Never Gives Up!
Join now

"Stress does not always increase perceptions of danger in the environment, as is often assumed," said lead study author Candace Raio. She is a postdoctoral researcher at New York University.

"In fact, our study shows that when we are under stress, we pay less attention to changes in the environment, potentially putting us at increased risk for ignoring new sources of threat," Raio noted in a university news release.

In the study, volunteers viewed images on a computer screen. The appearance of some images were coupled with a mild, electric shock to the wrist, while other images were not paired with a shock.

A day later, half of the participants underwent a procedure designed to induce stress. The "stress group" placed their arm in an ice-water bath for a few minutes, which elevated two known stress hormones -- alpha-amylase and cortisol.

Later, all of the volunteers repeated the threat-conditioning procedure on the computer. However, this time the cues switched: the earlier "threatening" cue no longer predicted a shock to the wrist, but the formerly "safe" cue did.

While the study participants viewed the images, the scientists collected physiological responses, to measure how individuals anticipated the outcome of each cue.

Those in the stress group were less likely to change their responses to threats than were those in the other group, an indication that stress impaired their ability to be flexible in detecting new threats, the study authors said.

The Internet's Most Trusted Source For Mental Health Information
Sign up

"Stress can reduce the flexibility of our responses to threats by impairing how well we track and update predictions of potentially dangerous circumstances," Raio explained.

The study was published online recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more on stress.


Copyright © 2013-2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


Related Content

What If Your Anxiety & Depression Is Really A Sign Of ADHD?
What If Your Anxiety & Depression Is Really A Sign Of ADHD?

More often than not, when a person over the age of 10 is diagnosed with attentio...

Read more
New Patent By OxyContin Maker May Treat Pain But Comes With Addictive Potential
New Patent By OxyContin Maker May Treat Pain But Comes With Addictive Potential

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has received a patent designed to treat o...

Read more
Why Are Transgenders Experiencing More Mental Health Issues Than The General Public?
Why Are Transgenders Experiencing More Mental Health Issues Than The General Public?

Individuals who identify as transgender tend to experience higher rates of menta...

Read more
New Research In Schizophrenia Shows That A Video Game Can Aid In Preventing Hallucinations
New Research In Schizophrenia Shows That A Video Game Can Aid In Preventing Hallucinations

People with schizophrenia can be trained by playing a video game to control the ...

Read more
I was 12 When I Survived 9-11 But My Peers & I Are Only Now Realizing Our PTSD
I was 12 When I Survived 9-11 But My Peers & I Are Only Now Realizing Our PTSD

As the Twin Towers burned and eventually collapsed on 9/11, I was running from m...

Read more
How Running Helped These Everyday People Beat OCD, Depression & Anxiety
How Running Helped These Everyday People Beat OCD, Depression & Anxiety

When documentary photographer Martin Eberlen was diagnosed with ADHD in his earl...

Read more