The “Work” of Worrying

This blog post is the second in a series of posts that are excerpts from my full length published article, ‘Five Simple Steps To Managing Anxiety’ available for immediate download from my website by this link:

The “Work” of Worrying

There was a very interesting research study conducted several years ago on children who required surgery. The researchers studied children who were scheduled for surgery and their pre-surgical and post-surgical style of coping.

They identified three types of coping style: the ‘macho’ child was characterized by the attitude, ‘I’m not afraid of anything, let me at it.’ The ‘terrified’ child was overwhelmed with anxiety, clinging to mom’s skirt and sometimes pleading for the surgery to be canceled. The ‘appropriately worried’ child wasn’t crazy about the idea of surgery, but was characterized by the attitude, ‘I’d rather not have to do this…do I really have to? OK, then let’s get it over with.’

The researchers studied which of the three types of children coped better with the surgical procedure and had a speedier and less complicated recovery. Guess which type of child did the best? Nope, not the ‘Macho’ child, contrary to common sense, they actually did the worst! Next best was the ‘terrified’ child. That’s right; the ‘terrified child’ coped better than the ‘Macho’ child! Best of all was the ‘appropriately worried’ child.

The researchers theorized that there is a level of anxiety that is required to engage one’s coping resources, and that too little anxiety/worry fails to engage effective coping, yet overwhelming anxiety/worry interferes with optimal coping. So there you have it…worry, though uncomfortable, may well be necessary for effective coping, but overwhelming anxiety or panic clearly interferes with it.

Next post in this series: “Panic: When Anxiety Itself Is the Threat

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