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The scientific reason why anxiety can cloud your decision-making skills


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Photo: Stocksy/Luke Mattson

Anxiety can get in the way of a lot of things: making friends, going on epic adventures—you name it. And now it’s becoming clear that it also greatly affects decision-making skills.

In a new study, researchers randomly assigned 111 participants into three groups and then had members of each cohort look at images and hear sentences that guided them to feel anxious, positive, or neutral. For instance, the positive group experienced happy text about being loved, and the anxious group had a darker message about never being safe in their own neighborhood or home.

Decision-making skills might be impacted by anxiety’s effects on the body, including feeling risk-averse, pessimistic, and hardly confident. All of these factors can diminish a person’s ability to trust their own gut when making a choice.

After participants were successfully guided into their mind-sets, they filled out questionnaires. Researchers found the optimistic and neutral groups’ moods didn’t affect their decision-making skills, but that wasn’t the case for the anxious folks: Their anxiety actually decreased their ability to go with their gut, making it harder for them to use their intuition.

According to The Cut, the results showed that the anxious group’s decision-making skills were noticeably impacted due to anxiety’s effects on the body, which can include feeling risk-averse, pessimistic, and hardly confident. All of these factors can diminish a person’s ability to trust their own gut when making a choice.

While anxiety can get in the way of making healthy decisions, it doesn’t have to. Treating the disorder is the first step in reclaiming enough confidence to be able to depend on your intuition. Because you—not your anxiety—should be in the driver’s seat of your life (especially if a proverbial deer crosses the road right in front of you.)

Phone separation anxiety is a real thing—and here’s how to know if you have it. And if you need some mood-boosting mantras, these will help lower your anxiety levels.