Have you ever wondered why you and your bestie have experienced anxious feelings at the same time? Did you wonder if that was normal or just unique to your friendship? Well, science has come to your rescue and has finally given us some answers.
There is a phenomenon known as “emotional contagion” which is a big phrase for your emotions being able to catch fire and spread to those around you. And while this is known, just like catching negative emotions is actually much easier than catching positive ones, a new study has proven that stress, something that we assumed was unique to each person as every situation is different, is just as transferable.
A new study done by Toni-Lee Sterley, a neuroscientist at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute in Calgary, has been done on mice and thus far proven true: stress is transferrable. Sterley believes that the same emotional contagion of stress is possible in humans according to The Cut.
She states, “We feel that if these changes are happening even in the mouse brain because human brains are so much more evolved and complex, they’re like to be occurring in humans too.”
We tend to mimic those we interact with and have strong emotional connections to, which is why you may get anxious when your friends are anxious.
— UberFacts (@UberFacts) May 24, 2018
The study exposed a mouse to mild stress before being placed with an “unstressed” mouse. The stressed mouse released pheromones that allowed the other mouse to feel like they had experienced the stress as well despite never being exposed to the stimulus.
While a study has yet to be conducted on humans, Sterley believes that the response would be the same. “We can differentiate between a stress smell and an unstressed smell. I think we use pheromones more than we think we do, but obviously we can also communicate stress through body language and [verbal communication], too.”
An essay, per The Guardian, that resurfaced late last year, seems to support this.
The essay, which was written by designer Mike Monteiro, states that a person will try to share their anxieties with you so as to justify their own.
The publication continues, “The other major hazard when it comes to worry and anxiety is that, unlike other negative emotions, they seem productive; chewing over a problem feels like doing something about it. And so we’d like others to share our worry: that way, several people will be “working” on the problem. The hitch, of course, is that worry isn’t really productive: usually, it’s a distraction, and leads to lower-quality work.”
So, maybe staying off social media every once in awhile isn’t such a bad thing, guys!