Affirmations for anxiety: Do they work?

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Although there is little research into positive affirmations for anxiety, a 2016 study looked at excessive worry, a common symptom of anxiety disorders. The study included 102 individuals with generalized anxiety disorder.

The researchers asked them to replace their worries with positive pictures or words depicting potential good outcomes. A control group used positive images unrelated to their worries.

After 1 month, all of the participants benefited, showing decreased levels of anxiety and worry, with no differences between the groups. It appears that replacing worry with positive ideas has benefits even when these ideas are unrelated to the concern.

Individuals with anxiety issues, such as social anxiety disorder, may also have heightened sensitivity to people’s facial expressions. As a result, they may perceive negative social cues such as unhappy or disgusted facial expressions as threats.

Research shows that if an individual feels threatened, affirmations could restore their feelings of self-competence and self-worth. Therefore, using positive affirmations may help increase self-esteem and make a person feel less threatened.