New research from the University in USA, finds that some forms of worrying may be beneficial. It can activate motivation to address a problem, and – according to the researchers – help heal from trauma and depression.
In the study, the lead author Kate Sweeny describes the role of worry in motivating preventive and protective behaviour; that it leads people to avoid unpleasant events. She explains that worry is associated with recovery from traumatic events, adaptive preparation and planning, recovery from depression, and partaking in activities that promote health and prevent illness. Furthermore, people who report greater worry may perform better — in school or at the workplace — seek more information in response to stressful events, and engage in more successful problem-solving.
That’s a pretty extensive list of benefits, and I think the research may overlook that there are different levels of “worry” among different personalities and the kinds of emotional conflicts people experience have an impact. But she acknowledges that “…both too much and too little worry can interfere with motivation, but the right amount of worry can motivate without paralysing.”
For example, she cites three situations of the positive benefit of worry:
- Worry serves as a cue that the situation is serious and requires action.
- Worrying about a stressor keeps the stressor at the front of one’s mind and prompts people toward action.
- The unpleasant feeling of worry motivates people to find ways to reduce their worry.
Sweeny points out that as people brace for the worst, they embrace a pessimistic outlook to mitigate potential disappointment, boosting excitement if the news is good. Therefore, both bracing and worrying have an emotional payoff following the moment of truth.
“Worrying the right amount is far better than not worrying at all.”