The strange truth about anxiety
Can anxiety be good for us? That is this article in a nutshell (not a nut case – that’s me).
Since you’re probably thinking I’ve finally lost the plot because of writing too much and not drinking enough beer (or is it the other way round?), I’d better explain. Let’s start at the beginning, with my own definition of anxiety since I think the one in my dictionary isn’t quite adequate for our purposes: an overreaction to possible warning signs and mildly unpleasant experiences, or a form of extreme pessimism unjustified by circumstances.
I have been thinking a lot about anxiety in the last fifteen months or so, mainly because, following a persistent infection needing antibiotics the year before last, I’ve found myself worrying a lot over my health. Terrifying myself with every little ache and pain or unusual sensation. Why, I found myself wondering? And could any good come of it?
On the face of it the answer is no because worrying is bad and anxiety is a type of worry. Obviously, most of the time it is bad as it is destructive of peace of mind and quality of life. Modern life generates a lot of anxiety.
Many people try to sow the seeds of panic (a close relative of anxiety) for their own cynical ends: politicians and bureaucrats (to cover up, or distract attention from, their mistakes and misdemeanours), newspaper and television-news editors (to grab our attention by terrifying us with their version of reality), terrorists (who use anxiety as a weapon) and last – but not least – the climate-change fanatics (who use it to obtain funding for their research or as a pretext for giving more power to unelected bodies such as the UN or EU).
So how on earth can anxiety be good for us? The clue is in the word “overreaction” in my definition above. A certain amount of anxiety can help us avoid danger; put another way, controlled anxiety is useful, even pleasurable. After all, films and novels, especially thrillers (like my own young-adult cyber-terrorism thriller Deadfall), are popular with viewers and readers because of the ebb and flow of tension – and tension is just another term for controlled anxiety.
As it says in the first song on "Mosaic of Disarray": “Go to Channel D, get anxiety/”.