Facts About Anxiety: 10 Psychology Studies To Know

Facts about anxiety, including how to reduce it, why some people are so anxious and the behaviours that increase it.

Facts about anxiety, including how to reduce it, why some people are so anxious and the behaviours that increase it.

Facts about anxiety include that acts of kindness can reduce social anxiety and some dietary supplements may help with the condition.

Another fact about anxiety is that it can be socially isolating and inherited from your parents.

Discover these and more facts about anxiety based on psychological research below.

1. Acts of kindness reduce anxiety

Performing acts of kindness can help people with social anxiety mingle with others more easily.

People recruited into the study were put into one of three groups for four weeks:

  • One group performed acts of kindness, like doing their roommates’ dishes.
  • Another group were exposed to various social interactions without the acts of kindness.
  • A third group, who did nothing special, acted as a control.

At the end of the study it was those who’d performed the acts of kindness who felt more comfortable in social interactions.

2. Fact about anxiety: dietary supplements

Dietary supplements which contain passionflower, kava or combinations of L-lysine and L-arginine can help reduce anxiety, according to a review published in the Nutrition Journal.

The supplements generally had mild to moderate effects without producing any serious side-effects.

Of the supplements included, kava has been the most extensively studied.

The researchers found that taking kava on its own…

“… significantly reduced anxiety symptoms in a variety of patient types.

This provides good evidence for the use of kava in patients with GAD, non-psychotic anxiety and other anxiety-related disorders.”

3. Anxiety is socially isolating

Anxiety interferes with the ability to take other people’s perspective, research reveals.

Anxiety makes people focus more on themselves and reduces their empathy for others, psychologists have found.

The study’s results may help explain why anxiety can be such an isolating emotion.

4. Fact about anxiety: it is inherited

An over-active network of brain areas is central to how children inherit anxiety and depression from their parents.

The network consists of three regions in the brain which work together to control the fear-response.

The study found that around 35 percent of the difference in anxiety was explained by family history.

5. Sedentary behaviour linked to anxiety

Sitting down all day has been linked to increased anxiety, a study finds.

Low energy activities like watching TV, working at a computer or playing electronic games may all be linked to anxiety.

The cause of the link could be down to disturbed sleep, poor metabolic health or social withdrawal.

6. Social anxiety linked to higher serotonin levels

Social anxiety disorder is linked to higher levels of serotonin in the brain, not lower as previously thought.

People with both social anxiety actually produce more of the neurotransmitter serotonin in their brains.

The more serotonin they produce, the more anxious they become.

The result is a surprise as social anxiety are often treated with SSRIs like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.

SSRIs actually increase the levels of serotonin in the brain.

7. Fermented foods can reduce social anxiety

People who eat more fermented foods have lower social anxiety, a study finds

The benefit is particularly noticeable amongst people who are highly neurotic.

Neurotic people are prone to anxiety.

Fermented foods that are a regular part of the Western diet include milk, cheese, yoghurt and bread.

They typically contain probiotics, which are likely behind the benefit.

8. Fact about anxiety: it is contagious

Anxiety is contagious and can be passed from parents to children and the other way, a study finds.

The ‘catching’ nature of anxious thoughts and behaviours exists over and above the effects of genetics.

Anxious children can also pass on their anxiety to parents, even when they were not initially anxious.

9. Prebiotics can reduce anxiety

Consuming a prebiotic can have an anti-anxiety effect, the research has found.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have discovered that a prebiotic can reduce levels of anxiety in a clinical trial.

Like foods containing probiotic bacteria, prebiotics are functional foods: they have benefits beyond their purely nutritional value.

The positive influence of the prebiotic was similar to that obtained by taking existing anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drugs.

10. How exercise and relaxation help reduce anxiety

In treating social anxiety — discomfort or fear in social situations, often of being judged — both relaxation techniques and exercise have been found beneficial (see: how to deal with anxiety).

Research suggests this is because it changes the way people perceive the world.

After exercise or relaxation, people are less likely to interpret neutral social signals as threatening — something that people with social anxiety have a tendency to do.

→ Now read more about anxiety:


Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

Get free email updates

Join the free PsyBlog mailing list. No spam, ever.