The state of having anxiety is often looked at as a disorder in the medical field. However, what if people suffering from anxiety are simply more connected to the suffering that exists in themselves and the world?
A study from a few years ago reached this very conclusion. People who reported suffering from anxiety had an increased ability to feel and interpret emotions of those around them:
“Results support the hypothesis that high socially anxious individuals may demonstrate a unique social-cognitive abilities profile with elevated cognitive empathy tendencies and high accuracy in affective mental state attributions.”
Further research on the subject has come up with some fascinating new information regarding the suffering of anxiety. Recent research has concluded that people who reported to suffer from anxiety scored higher on tests designed to measure verbal intelligence.
Another study from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York demonstrated that sufferers from extreme anxiety tested higher on IQ tests than those who reported not having much anxiety. Therefore, there was a positive correlation between level of anxiety and level of intelligence.
Dr. Jeremy Coplan said about his study: “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.”
Yet another study published in the European Journal of Psychology found that participants who reported suffering from anxiety were quicker to detect danger and also quicker to respond to those threats than other participants:
“Social defense theory (Ein-Dor et al., 2010) proposes that in threatening situations, people who score high on attachment anxiety quickly detect the presence of threat and then alert other group members to the danger and the need for protection.
Supporting this line of reasoning, we found that participants high in attachment anxiety were less willing to be delayed on their way to deliver a warning message.”
To explain, one possibility for these results is that anxious people are altruistic. In the animal kingdom, those that detect and respond to threats the quickest are most likely to survive.
Some species in nature even rely on having an anxiety-prone individual in the herd in order to quickly detect threats.
Can we conclude, then, that rather than being a disorder, anxiety could be an evolutionary advantage?