It turns out anxiety may serve a purpose beyond making you run back to your apartment to make sure you blew out your candle. Insight from David Barlow, founder and director of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University and author of Anxiety and Its Disorders, may make you appreciate your incessant worry and over-analyzing.
"Humans are particularly well-situated to be able to anticipate the future and plan for the future," explains Barlow as quoted by New York Magazine's the Science of Us. "The anxiety is something that motivates you to plan your approach to these challenges in such a way that you feel you’re prepared. In doing so, you perform at a much higher level." Barlow then goes on to quote psychologist Howard Liddell, who wrote about how anxiety "accompanies intellectual activity as its shadow" back in 1949. This idea has since been scientifically substantiated by various studies, including one from psychiatrist Jeremy Coplan from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York.
Coplan found that those with more severe symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder had higher IQs than those with milder symptoms. "While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be," reads the report, published in Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience. "In essence, worry may make people 'take no chances,' and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species."
Do you experience anxiety? Test out the Headspace app as a calming tool, and share your review in the comments below.