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Detecting multi-class anxiety with EEG technology

Julia Park

Man wearing the Muse S Headband

new study, “A study on multi-class anxiety detection using wearable EEG headband,” found that EEG technology, specifically Muse’s wearable EEG headsets, could be successful in identifying people with anxiety. This research, published in the Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Humanized Computing, opens new avenues in understanding and managing anxiety disorders. 

In a time when mental health issues are becoming increasingly common, this study offers a glimmer of hope and a step toward preventative solutions.

Conducted with 65 participants with and without anxiety, the study used a Muse EEG headband to record resting-state EEG data. Participants were guided to a calming environment where they filled out demographic information and a 20-question questionnaire aimed at determining day-to-day levels of anxiety. They wore the Muse brain-sensing device and had their EEG data recorded for two minutes in open eye condition. 

The questionnaire was used to classify the participants’ anxiety levels into non-anxious, low anxious, and high anxious categories. The goal of the study was to explore whether machine learning applied to the Muse EEG can effectively determine the participants’ anxiety levels.

The research team used a sophisticated approach using a random forest classifier to analyze the data. Their method achieved impressive classification accuracies of 87.69% for two-class (non-anxious and anxious) and 83.07% for three-class anxiety classification. This level of accuracy marks a significant advancement in anxiety detection and a marked improvement over existing methods. 

Key findings from the study include:

  • Personalized anxiety profiles. The ability to categorize people into specific anxiety levels offers a personalized approach to mental health care. Tailored treatment plans can make interventions more effective and responsive to individual mental health needs. 
  • Objective mental health monitoring. Traditional methods of assessing anxiety often involve subjective questionnaires and self-reported measures. The real-time data of the Muse 2 headband provides an objective, scientific method to evaluate anxiety levels. This offers a more reliable and consistent approach to monitoring mental health. 
  • Early intervention and continuous monitoring. Detecting anxiety levels accurately and in real-time means people can receive timely support and intervention, potentially preventing the escalation of anxiety symptoms. Continuous monitoring can help track the effectiveness of treatments and make necessary adjustments in real-time, leading to better outcomes.
Man looking anxious

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a long-term disorder often triggered by stressful situations and can lead to severe social and health problems. Anxiety disorders are alarmingly common, impacting around 31.1% of the U.S. population at some time in their lives. However, less than 37% of those struggling with anxiety receive treatment.

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where we feel under pressure, they usually pass once the stressful situation has passed or the ‘stressor’ is removed.

Anxiety, however, is when these anxious feelings don’t go away – they’re ongoing and happen without any particular reason or cause. It’s a serious mental health problem that makes it hard to cope with daily life.

Common anxiety disorders

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic attacks and panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-Traumatic stress disorder
  • Phobias

Anxiety manifests in various physical and emotional symptoms that can severely disrupt a person’s life. Physical signs and symptoms can include:

  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Gastrointestinal problems 
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Restlessness
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Twitching and tremors

These symptoms are not only uncomfortable but can also lead to further health complications if not addressed. 

Emotionally, anxiety can be even more debilitating. Feelings of dread or apprehension, helplessness, and hopelessness are common, as are increased tension and conflict at home. People with anxiety often report feeling constantly ‘on edge,’ unable to relax, and consumed by worries. 

Mentally, anxiety leads to dissatisfaction, and negative attitudes toward one’s self, work, and life in general. It can also cause an increase in work-withdrawing behaviors such as absenteeism and turnover. These symptoms can create a vicious cycle, where anxiety leads to behaviors that further worsen the condition.

What causes anxiety?

This question can be challenging to answer. Some researchers say it’s genetic, others say it’s a learned condition associated with the environment we grew up in. Likely, anxiety and depression result from a combination of both our genetics and environmental influences, including traumatic events. 

Current anxiety treatments

Treating anxiety disorders can take three main paths:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medications
  • Complementary holistic approaches

Psychotherapy for anxiety disorders

Psychotherapy can be boiled down to talk therapy. There are many types of talk therapy, although some may be more effective depending on the anxiety disorder. 

Some of the most widely used and successful therapies for anxiety disorder include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Trauma-informed therapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR)
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Exposure therapy
  • Group therapy and support groups

Complementary holistic approaches to anxiety

Like many mental illnesses, anxiety disorders often benefit from a combined approach involving therapy alongside self-care and lifestyle shifts. Most self-managed approaches for reduced anxiety feature techniques for stress relief and relaxation. Self-care techniques and practices can include:

  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Breathing techniques
  • Body relaxation exercises
  • Visualization exercises
  • Tai chi
  • Qigong
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Art therapy and creative outlets
  • Creating routines that reduce stress (regular exercise, good nutrition, quality sleep, a morning and evening routine that makes you feel good)

Woman meditating with Muse 2

A new frontier in mental health management

The findings of this study hold potential in the field of mental health in general. Detecting levels of anxiety using a non-invasive, wearable device could change how we approach anxiety management and therapy. This could lead to more personalized treatment plans, empowering healthcare professionals to tailor their approach based on an individual’s specific anxiety profile. 

Additionally, the study highlights the significance of wearable technology in personal mental health care. Devices like the Muse 2 Headband and the Muse S Headband offer an accessible tool for people in high-stress environments, encouraging them to take control of their mental wellbeing. 

Imagine being able to tell when an anxiety attack is about to strike or being able to assess triggers and coping solutions. While more research is needed, this study suggests we may be able to detect anxiety-prone minds even when they’re not anxious with at-home solutions. With the increasing stressors of modern life, having a way to monitor and manage anxiety in real time could be a game-changer for many. 

Relieve stress with Muse

Struggling with the non-stop intrusive thoughts of a busy mind? Want to welcome some peace and relaxation into your life? Explore our collection of 500+ guided meditations led by 20+ meditation instructors from around the world. 

Combine this approach with the Muse 2 Headband and the Muse S Headband, which use advanced EEG technology to guide you towards improved mental wellbeing. Join the 78% of Musers who reported being calmer and more relaxed since using their Muse headset. 

Imagine gaining a deeper understanding of your mental state, using real-time insights for effective stress management and anxiety prevention. That’s the reality of 77% of Muse users who felt they had a better handle on their stress. The brain-sensing headsets don’t just track your mental activity during meditation and sleep; they provide biofeedback, helping you develop more effective coping mechanisms and mindful practices. Experience the impact of Muse today!


Got extra minutes to spare? We invite you to participate in our new 'Assess Your Wellbeing' program, a 5-minute clinically recognized assessment. By participating, you'll gain valuable insights into your wellbeing and contribute to Muse's research, furthering the advancement of EEG technology to detect mental health issues.

The data you provide will be securely stored and used solely for internal research purposes. Open the free Muse app to get started - no Muse device required. We appreciate your participation!

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