Madison Vanderberg
December 15, 2017 1:24 pm
JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty/iStock

We have some great news for anyone who struggles with anxiety, but there is a bit of a catch. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago think they may have created a quick test that can tell you if your anxiety is best treated with therapy or with an anti-anxiety medication. These researchers have created a test where the individual is instructed to complete a scenario that is designed to force the user to make a mistake.

As researcher Stephanie Gorka describes to UIC Today, “People with anxiety disorders tend to show an exaggerated neural response to their own mistakes. This is a biological internal alarm that tells you that you’ve made a mistake and that you should modify your behavior to prevent making the same mistake again. It is useful in helping people adapt, but for those with anxiety, this alarm is much, much louder.”

The test essentially triggers the individual’s anxiety levels and measures the electrical responses in their brain as the individual grapples to react to their mistake — they call this error-related negativity, or ERN. People with a larger ERN signal are usually more in tune with their actions, which means if you have a high ERN, cognitive behavioral therapy will likely be more helpful to you than medication.

According to the Mayo clinic, cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of talk therapy “that helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.” Basically, you’re retraining your brain to not react the way it naturally wants to.

The study also found that those who had enhanced ERN levels were actually more anxious after a 12-week period on anti-anxiety medication.

So how can you take this test for yourself? Well, the study was only released this month, so it’s likely that many mental health practitioners don’t have the equipment yet or are aware of it. According to the study, the EEG equipment used to conduct the 30-minute test is affordable and easy to purchase for practitioners, meaning its only a matter of time before you can hopefully take this test in your local therapist or psychiatrist’s office.

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