Emotional strategy can influence anxiety level

Last Updated: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 18:42

Washington: When trouble approaches, do you hide? Pretend it isn`t there? Or do you see a silver lining?

Researchers from the University of Illinois found the way people regulate their emotions, in bad times and in good, can influence whether - or how much - they suffer from anxiety.

Those who plan ahead and consider how to respond positively to challenging problems tend to suffer less from anxiety than those who ignore, hide or repress their feelings, the study found.

In a series of questionnaires, researchers asked 179 healthy men and women how they managed their emotions and how anxious they felt in various situations.

The team analysed the results to see if different emotional strategies were associated with more or less anxiety.

The study revealed that those who engage in an emotional regulation strategy called reappraisal tended to also have less social anxiety and less anxiety in general than those who avoid expressing their feelings.

Reappraisal involves looking at a problem in a new way, said University of Illinois graduate student Nicole Llewellyn, who led the research with psychology professor Florin Dolcos, an affiliate of the Beckman Institute at Illinois.

"When something happens, you think about it in a more positive light, a glass half full instead of half empty," Llewellyn said.

"You sort of reframe and reappraise what`s happened and think what are the positives about this? What are the ways I can look at this and think of it as a stimulating challenge rather than a problem?" Llewellyn said.

Study participants who regularly used this approach reported less severe anxiety than those who tended to suppress their emotions.

"The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2020, anxiety and depression - which tend to co-occur - will be among the most prevalent causes of disability worldwide, secondary only to cardiovascular disease. So it`s associated with big costs," Dolcos said.

Not all anxiety is bad, however, he said. Low-level anxiety may help you maintain the kind of focus that gets things done.

Suppressing or putting a lid on your emotions also can be a good strategy in a short-term situation, such as when your boss yells at you, Dolcos said.

Similarly, an always-positive attitude can be dangerous, causing a person to ignore health problems, for example, or to engage in risky behaviour.

The study was published in the journal Emotion.

PTI



First Published: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 18:42

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