Being a worrywart may make your smarter, says research. Being a worrywart may make your smarter, says research. Excessive worrying may not be such a bad thing afterall, researches say. (Photo: KennyK / Shutterstock)

Anxiety and high IQ may go hand-in-hand

Why the Paul Reveres among us can be a boon to society.

We live in the most anxious time ever, at least if you go by the number of media stories about the subject. But nervous folk, take heart: there may be some genuine upsides to those feelings of dread, those sleepless nights and that oft-knotted stomach.

Research has shown that anxious people are more assiduous and detail-oriented, which can be a boon. How could something as uncomfortable as anxiety be associated with traits we usually consider beneficial?

A study by psychologists Tsachi Ein-Dor and Orgad Tal, from the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel may have at least a partial answer to that question. "We found that anxious individuals were less willing to be delayed on their way to deliver a warning message," Ein-Dor and Tal wrote in their paper. Look at history, and you can see why those of us who are considered "high strung" might be important in the overall success of human beings on an oft-dangerous planet. Paul Revere was probably more like the "anxious individuals" Ein-Dor and Tal write of than, say, Jeff Spicoli from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

“Many species of animals benefit from having sentinels in their midst.”

While this was a correlative study, it does back up what has been called the "sentinel" effect seen in other experiments: "Many species of animals benefit from having sentinels in their midst. For instance, various mammals and primates produce shrill alarm signals when they detect a potential threat. In similar ways, human group members can benefit from anxious individuals’ hyper-activating strategies," write the researchers.

In a study published in Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, psychiatrist Professor Jeremy Coplan of SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York found a connection between high IQ and higher levels of worry. "In essence, worry may make people 'take no chances,' and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species," Coplan told the Telegraph.

So, do these studies alleviate any stress for the anxiety-riddled among us? "Ironically, it makes me feel less anxious about my anxiety to know that it serves some kind of purpose," Christine Lamott, a teacher in Connecticut, told From The Grapevine. "If there's a reason for it, it's less like there's something wrong with me and more something I just need to manage, which is empowering."


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