Stress Not, Worriers

The Times had a (long) article on worriers in Sunday’s magazine. Studies have identified a subset of infants/children with “high-reactive” temperaments. They go on to be inhibited adolescents, and anxious adults. So if relaxation techniques don’t seem to do you much good, it could be that you’re naturally wired more tightly. This isn’t all bad, however:

People with a high-reactive temperament — as long as it doesn’t show itself as a clinical disorder — are generally conscientious and almost obsessively well-prepared. Worriers are likely to be the most thorough workers and the most attentive friends. Someone who worries about being late will plan to get to places early. Someone anxious about giving a public lecture will work harder to prepare for it. Test-taking anxiety can lead to better studying; fear of traveling can lead to careful mapping of transit routes.

Kagan told me that in the 40 years he worked at Harvard, he hired at least 200 research assistants, “and I always looked for high-reactives. They’re compulsive, they don’t make errors, they’re careful when they’re coding data.”

…what distinguishes the high-reactives who learn to adapt from those who don’t often comes down to something simple, like finding one or two supportive friends — or, like Mary [a test subject] and her ballet, finding something they’re good at and can feel self-confident about.

No mention of yoga or other treatments for anxiety; the article is more focused on presenting the background research and the corresponding brain anatomy.

Any worriers want to be my intern?