The Benefits of Being a Worry Wart

If you are worried about your worrying, take heed. Researchers led by Gregory Miller from the University of Illinois have published a new study entitled “Co-occurring Anxiety Influences Patterns of Brain Activity in Depression” in the journal Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience looking at how anxiety can affect those suffering from depression. The study focused on the different types of anxiety: anxious arousal, which can lead to panic, and anxious apprehension, otherwise known as worry.

The subjects were classified based on their diagnoses: depression alone, anxiety alone, or a combination of depression and one or both forms of anxiety. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, the researchers noted that different areas of the brain were activated depending on the type of anxiety the subjects were suffering. The MRI studies indicated that those with the panic form of anxiety seemed to have increased activity in the right frontal lobe, this is the same area of the brain which is also activated in those with depression. In those with worry, the opposite side of the brain was activated. Worriers activated the left frontal lobe, the part of the brain that is associated with speech production.

The subjects were put through a test to examine speech and language processing, and subjects who tended more toward worrying than panic performed better on a word task. The findings suggest worrying may actually help the brain to perform better, possibly even counteracting some of the effects of depression.  Though the reason why is not yet determined the researchers believe that worrying may help your brain by activating a different part of your brain not associated with depression. Worrying helps you process problems in a healthy way, because you can focus on the task, develop a plan, and most importantly weed out the negative emotions that can complicate clearer thinking.

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