Can Anxiety be Beneficial?

The motivation for this blog all started by worrying about how I was going to do all of these blogs by the end of the first blog session. Whilst sitting at my desk pondering and stressing out about trying to find a subject to discuss, I realized the perfect topic for overwhelmed freshmen was sitting in my clammy hands. How much anxiety is too much anxiety? Does panicking harm me, or could it be beneficial?

Luckily a recent study was done in 2013 at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Jeremy Coplan is a professor of Psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and is the doctor who completed the study that attempted to connect the evolutionary link between anxiety and intelligence. Dr. Coplan summarized his theory about the evolutionary link by stating “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, 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.”

A total of forty-four patients were tested using an intelligence quotient (IQ) test, the Penn State Worry Questionnaire, and “a proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging to measure subcortical white matter metabolism of choline and related compounds.” Basically, the researchers were observing the subjects’ brains to further understand where intelligence and worry were affecting the brain, and whose brains reacted more quickly; the subjects that were more worrisome or less worrisome.  There were twenty-six patients with diagnosed general anxiety disorder (GAD) used in the testing to see how people who were anxious would react to the tests, and eighteen “healthy humans.” The results showed that in fact there is a direct correlation between intelligence and anxiety. In the “healthy humans” without GAD, the less worrisome they were, the higher their IQ tests were. However, in the subjects with GAD, the more worrisome they were, the higher their IQ tests

While more research is clearly necessary, these early findings have created a lot of discussion in the psychiatric field. And to my fellow worriers, I say press onward in hopes that Dr. Coplan’s initial research will lead to many discovers that show a little stress goes a long way.


SUNY Downstate Medical Center. “Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence.”      ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 April 2012.                                                              <>.

Coplan, Jeremy D., Sarah Hodulik, Sanjay J. Mathew, Xiangling Mao, Patrick R. Hof, Jack M.     Gorman, and Dikoma C. Shungu. “Abstract.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 01 Feb. 2012. Web. 07 Sept. 2014.

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