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Neuroscience For Kids

Why We "Feel" Nervousness
by Remi Alli (Neuroscience for Kids guest writer)
April 12, 2010

blush Dutch researchers have an idea why people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) blush more than others: they are afraid of how others will judge them, and therefore become more nervous!

blush In experiments published in the journal Biological Psychology, SAD blushers (n=32), SAD non-blushers (n=34), and healthy controls (n=25) were placed in two social situations: 1) giving a speech in front of strangers and 2) having a conversation with strangers. During these tasks, blood flow to the cheek and forehead, cheek temperature, and skin conductance were measured.

blush The SAD blushers showed higher cheek temperatures and more blood flow than SAD non-blushers and higher cheek temperatures than normal control subjects. People with SAD who were non-blushers showed a smaller increase in cheek blood flow during the interaction and no recovery compared to the other groups. No differences in skin conductance measurements between groups were observed.

blush So, why do we "feel" nervousness? SAD patients may experience "feeling nervousness," because their heart starts to race and blood rushes quickly through their body. That's why the faces of some people with SAD get red when they are embarrassed or nervous -- blood rushes to their faces. Ultimately, our brain is not sure of what to do at that specific moment. That is why we may feel shame when we accidentally burp out loud or trip on the sidewalk in front of other people.

Nervousness usually happens when we are not fully prepared to handle a situation and it is generally based on our perception of the situation. These perceptions are called "cognitive distortions," and come from our feelings and how we perceive a situation.

References and more information:

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