Don’t sweat the small things. We’ve all heard the advice but what if we can’t help it – literally?
Researchers at The University of Newcastle say a propensity to sweat when startled could be an early indicator of stress, anxiety or even depression.
And they’ve developed a skin test to see who might be at risk, before any other symptoms emerge.
The team’s work could help doctors provide early treatment to reduce the impact on mental health.
Associate Professor Eugine Nalivaiko says it could also identify patients with less resilience to the kind of shocks that cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“The problem with current methods of reporting is that people don’t always answer accurately, whether intentionally or not, leading to distortion in the data and leaving individuals at risk of the effects of trauma,” Associate Professor Nalivaiko says.
“Our new technique fills an important gap offering an objective marker of resilience.”
It works by attaching skin sensors to the finger. These can detect activity in the sweat glands, one of the first responses to stress.
Subjects are then presented with a series of “acoustic shocks” – sudden loud noises.
Humans are naturally sensitive to such surprises at first and normally begin sweating immediately.
If the sound is repeated regularly enough, however, we generally become “habituated” to it, and the sweating response declines.
But the evidence shows people suffering elevated stress or anxiety take longer to adjust, if they do so at all.
Professor Nalivaiko says that’s an indication they may be vulnerable to PTSD or need help managing things like depression.
“What we have now shown is that the habituation rates in our acoustic startle protocol are sensitive enough to distinguish between high and low resilience in healthy individuals who are not clinically diagnosed but may be susceptible to mental health issues later in life.”
(The information in this article should not be considered medical advice. Please see your medical professional for information tailored to your personal circumstances.)
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