Does anxiety affect a polygraph test?

Does anxiety affect a polygraph test?

A person’s polygraph test can be affected due to their anxieties.

The main goal of a polygraph test or lie detectors is to find out if a person is anxious or fearful concerning any wrongdoing that they are potentially accused or suspicious of.

As the polygraph test aims to find out if a person is lying about a situation or not, a person saying the truth yet experiencing anxiety might get in trouble for the wrong reasons due to their autonomic arousal resulting from anxiety about the test and its results.

The polygraph test consists of a physiological recorder that assesses a person’s autonomic arousal, which includes a person’s heart rate, skin conductivity, and breathing.

As the typical signs and symptoms of anxiety bring about autonomic arousal in the form of increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, or hyperventilation the chances of it affecting the polygraph test are extraordinarily high.

People with anxiety concerns must be well aware of the working mechanism of the polygraph test and consciously calm themselves down before the test to avoid any false impressions.

One can consciously carry out breathing exercises to calm themselves down from the fear of the polygraphy test and its results to avoid any concerning assumptions by the officers later.

What is a polygraph test?

A polygraph test or lie detector are instruments used to find out if a person is lying and is guilty or is guilt-free by measuring the body reactions.

This test is very helpful in solving crime-driven cases or high-profile cases of sorts.

A polygraph test consists of a physiological recorder that assesses a person’s autonomic arousal such as their heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and skin conductivity

Various instruments measure various domains of the test. Like the rate of breathing is assessed by a pneumograph wrapped around an individual’s chest.

Whereas a person’s cardiovascular activity is assessed by a blood pressure cuff and similarly their skin conductivity is measured through electrodes attached to their fingertips.

The main purpose of the test is to find out if a person is nervous or fearful. In cases where the person is guilt-free, the physiological responses remain stable under questioning unless they don’t worry about the test, whereas a guilty person’s heart rate rises on the higher end fearing supporting results for their accusations.

The recording instrument and questioning techniques are only used during a part of the polygraph examination.

What are some ways to manage anxiety before the polygraph test?

Some ways to manage a person’s anxiety before a polygraph test to avoid false supporting reports are;

Identify and acknowledge the triggers

The most significant strategy that can be used to control one’s anxiety before the polygraph test is to identify and acknowledge one’s triggers.

Being able to recognize what makes an individual anxious makes them better equipped to take action.

Relaxation techniques

Even though anxiety can be bought under an individual’s control it cannot be predicted. In such situations, it is necessary that an individual actively carries out relaxation techniques before the test.

These might include meditation and deep breathing which helps to reduce the intensity of anxiety within a short period.


A key to reducing the intensity of anxiety attacks could be spending time with close family and friends.

The kind of emotional and practical support provided by these social and personal groups help the person feel confident about the polygraph test and aid in distracting one’s mind from negative and recurring thoughts that lead to anxiety concerning the test.

Distract yourself

Apart from doing activities that an individual is usually fond of and has expertise in, trying new and challenging activities that put an individual outside their comfort zone in a healthy manner may help reduce the stress and anxiety temporarily.

Lifestyle changes

An individual’s lifestyle plays a major role in their experience of anxiety. An unhealthy and busy lifestyle usually leads to unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, lack of adequate sleep.

A combination of a well-set diet, exercise, and sleep can help to regulate an individual’s mood and equip them with a favorable coping mechanism.

these coping mechanisms in turn help to get control over once anxiety concerns in a more adaptable manner.

lack of proper diet, sleep, and exercise can make an individual sluggish, dependent, moody and vulnerable to anxiety attacks.

Making journal entries

Last but not least having a journal to write down how a person is feeling and thinking when they are anxious helps them to reflect upon their thoughts and feelings.

Putting down one’s thoughts and feelings onto a paper helps to provide a sense of temporary relief.

In the case of journal entry, a person does not even have to fear being judged by another person regarding their thoughts and feelings.


What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety is characterized by a set of signs and symptoms such as:

•  Sweating

•  Difficulty in breathing

•  Shortness of breath

•  Sense of choking

•  Complaints of chest pain

•  Shaking or trembling

•  Nausea or vomiting

•  Dizziness or Light-headedness

•  Fear of losing control over oneself and their environment

•  Fear of impending doom

•  Hot or cold flashes

•  Tingling or numbness

•  Increased heart rate

What are the main triggers of anxiety?

Even though anxiety is seen among many individuals, certain triggers make some people more vulnerable to anxiety than others.

Apart from the polygraphy test itself, there might be other triggers that cause the experience of anxiety or heightened it during the test. These triggers can include :

Health diagnosis

An individual is more vulnerable to experiencing anxiety in the presence of chronic or serious health diagnoses such as cancer or diabetes.

Triggers associated with health diagnosis tend to have a strong impact on an individual because of the strong negative thoughts and emotions that are associated with it.


It is believed that many over-the-counter medications may contribute to the symptoms of anxiety in some individuals. This is certainly because of the ingredients in this medication that makes an individual feel uneasy.

Use of caffeine

Even though it is said that the use of caffeine helps to activate an individual’s system, studies show that over-usage of caffeine might lead to adverse effects such as anxiety or even depression.

Apart from the overuse withdrawal from caffeine may also lead to anxiety. hence it is suggested that individuals take conscious amounts of caffeine per day.

Skipping meals

Apart from environmental factors, one’s eating habits might also contribute to an individual’s anxiety directly or indirectly. When an individual fails to maintain their food timings it might lead to fluctuations in their blood sugar levels.

These fluctuations might make an individual feel jittery which in turn triggers anxiety.

Hence maintaining a proper schedule and diet is important for various reasons not just for energy but also for maintaining one’s mood.

Negative thinking

An individual’s behavior and emotions are certainly controlled by one’s thoughts. When an individual is upset and dwells on negative thoughts it further leads to discomforting emotions and detrimental thoughts causing a vicious cycle.

These negative thoughts are then projected to various areas of an individual’s life creating an overall sense of lack of control over oneself and the environment which triggers anxiety.

Financial concerns

Many individuals experience anxiety due to their financial standing. Learning to manage financial triggers requires seeking professional help such as from a financial advisor.


Daily stressors as simple as traffic jams to major ones such as strained relationships might contribute to one’s intensity and frequency of anxiety and anxiety attacks.

However long term or chronic stress leads to long term anxiety and a build-up of negative taught processes and emotions that impact an individual’s mental health


individuals might also experience anxiety as a result of interpersonal or intrapersonal conflicts.

The inability to resolve these conflicts might lead to the build-up of negative thoughts, emotions that overwhelm an individual and trigger anxiety.

Personal triggers

Personal triggers can be as minor as a smell, place, or even a song that reminds an individual of negative and discomforting experiences. Personal triggers can remind an individual of an unconscious or conscious dramatic event in an individual’s life that triggers their anxiety.

If you can identify and understand your triggers, you can work to avoid them and learn to cope with them. You can learn specific coping strategies to handle the triggers when they happen.

What are the therapy options for chronic anxiety?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular stimulus that they usually fear or are anxious about in a graded order.

As and when the individual gets comfortable with the situation or stimulus introduced or exposed to them with each session individuals get more comfortable with a real-life situation that might have otherwise been a source for triggering anxiety.

Group therapy

It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same fears they might not feel left alone or isolated. Group therapy usually involves a group of individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.


Anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication prescribed by a health care professional.

Though medication alone cannot help in reducing persistent anxiety it can help in restoring a sense of control and bring temporary relief.

Online therapy 

In cases where reaching out physically to a professional is impossible or discomforting an individual can opt to seek help through the online medium.

In this, the therapy sessions are carried out one-to-one over a video or audio call. Some individuals also prefer interacting with the therapist through text as well due to various reasons. One of the most common is the fear of being judged by the therapist or some personal hesitation.

Online therapy can help individuals to regulate some aspects of their anxiety that aid individuals


Undergoing a polygraphy test can be very stressful for any individual. For those who have a persistent complaint of anxiety, the polygraphy test acts as a major trigger for experiencing uneasiness by anticipating the test or its results.

Anxiety can affect one’s polygraph test and hence people undergoing the test must be very mindful about their triggers and must be well equipped with a strong coping mechanism to avoid any false-positive results.

Frequently asked questions


Can you fail a polygraph because of anxiety?

Agreeing to a report from the National Institute of Sciences, an assortment of mental and physical components, such as uneasiness, nervousness, or being tried, can influence one’s polygraph results.

Can you fail a polygraph by overthinking?

It is believed that overthinking about the test itself before the procedure can cause a risk of false reports. This might leave a person with a wrong impression concerning the case of investigation.

How do you relax on a polygraph?

People need to be aware of the working mechanism of the polygraph test and relax themselves to avoid results not true of them.

One can do this by carrying out deep breathing or consciously diverting themselves from the worries related to the test.

Does caffeine affect a polygraph?

There has been no clear evidence that the use of caffeine can harm the polygraph test. However, it is generally believed that high amounts of caffeine can hurt a person in a long run.

That being said one can avoid the consumption of caffeine hours before the polygraph tests.


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