The surprising upsides of worrying

Worrying can be described as the process of unpleasant thoughts that keep coming back and cause us to be anxious or distressed. Although it’s certainly true that worrying is often seen as a problem, there is increasing evidence that it can also be seen in positive ways too.

In this show I speak with Associate Professor Kate Sweeny from the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside in the USA.

Here is the link to the paper we talk about in this week’s show:

Here is the abstract for some context:

Worry is an aversive emotional experience that arises alongside repetitive unpleasant thoughts about the future. In this paper, we argue that although extreme levels of worry are associated with depressed mood, poor physical health, and even mental illness, worry has an upside. We focus on two empirically supported benefits of worry: its motivational benefits and its benefit as an emotional buffer. Regarding motivation, worry illuminates the importance of taking action to prevent an undesirable outcome and keeps the situation at the front of one’s mind to ensure that appropriate action is taken. It also triggers efforts to mitigate the consequences of bad news, motivates productive behavior that in turn reduces worry, and enhances the effectiveness of goal-directed action by prompting people to focus on obstacles that might derail best-laid plans. Worry can also serve as an emotional buffer by providing a desirable contrast to subsequent affective reactions, particularly for people who are prone to high levels of worry.

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