For many of us, anxiety is an everyday occurrence. It disrupts our daily rhythm, keeps us up at night, and may impede our ability to function at our best in daily life.
That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean we have an anxiety disorder, a psychological impairment that can result in far greater difficulties. Anxiety disorders, diagnosed by licensed psychologists and psychiatrists, are not terribly common, but for those who suffer from such disorders, no less life-altering.
But what if anxiety disorders might come with their own unique set of advantages?
More recent research suggests that may be precisely the case. Let’s look at some of the unique advantages that may be conferred to those who suffer from anxiety disorders, especially as they relate to a heightened sense of perception.
Psychologists at Israel’s University of Haifa have confirmed what many have us have long suspected: Individuals with anxiety disorders may fixate on how others feel because they are endowed with a greater sense of empathy than those of us in the general population.
What this means in layman’s terms is that individuals with high social anxiety are more attuned to others’ emotions, and as a result, connect with greater empathy–or, as the researchers noted, anxiety-laden individuals “exhibited elevated empathy tendencies.”
While in daily practice this may lead to many anxious people avoiding socialization, so as not to be overwhelmed by other peoples’ emotions, it can also be a tremendous gift to be able to understand better what others are going through. This empathy could be incredibly important to helping those with anxiety disorders in the future, as well.
Findings courtesy a research team at SUNY (State University of New York) Downstate Medical Center have noted a significant positive correlation between anxiety and intelligence, noting that those participants with general anxiety disorder displayed higher IQs than the general population.
And, if you think about how anxiety works in the brain, this makes sense. For individuals struggling with anxiety disorders, they may note that they are constantly analyzing the world around them, constantly processing information. As a result, it’s only natural that their brains would display signs of that more rigorous regular use.
For our evolutionary predecessors, anxiety dates back to an evolutionary survival advantage. Being anxious helped keep our ancestors on high alert, which in turn made them less likely to die in certain situations. As a result, anxiety functioned as a survival mechanism. But in our modern world, it’s not as if we’re being hunted anymore, is it? Do we really still need anxiety as a survival mechanism?
Most people would probably say no, but research conducted by French scientists suggests that may not be the case. As their research suggests, individuals struggling with high levels of anxiety may be able to detect danger in certain situations more quickly–meaning this anxiety could actually prove to be life-saving.
Lastly, some researchers suspect that for those individuals suffering from anxiety disorders, understanding and sensing other people’s vibrational energy may come more naturally as a result of their empathetic tendencies and higher intelligence.
As a result, anxious people may better be able to tell who exudes positive vibrations, and who gives off negative vibes, allowing them to better tell whether the people around them are worthy of their trust. For anxious individuals, paying attention to their sense of energy can help them determine who is worth keeping in their circle of friends and confidants.
All of this leads us to wonder: What if anxiety disorders are less a disorder and more a state that is simply poorly understood? Clearly, for those who are anxious there are advantages to which the rest of us aren’t privy. Perhaps in time we’ll better understand those states of mind that are currently labeled as all manners of anxiety disorders.
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