Retrospective Of Anxiety Study

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The beginning of literature on anxiety began similar to that of depression based on learned helplessness. Rats were placed in mazes and subjected to experimental neurosis, a stimulus that induces an anxiety-like response (in this case unpredictable electric shocks), and their behavior was assessed. Those rats exposed to experimental neurosis had extreme levels of agitation in comparison to the control group, with some experiencing sudden death syndrome. In humans, a similar experiment was done where prediction loud noise was used as the experimental neurosis. It was found that the noise increased blood pressure and anxiety because of agitation. This kind of exposure disrupted the subjects’ concentration, focus, and capacity to hold their mind on one thing. For some individuals, even though habituated, when the stressor was removed their concentration was affected from having to endure it.

The Yerkes-Dodson law is based on wanting to see the effect of physiological arousal (anxiety) on performance, stating that mid-range anxiety levels are ideal for performance. If the anxiety levels are too high or too low though, performance is disrupted. The complexity of a task also impacts to some degree the amount of physiological arousal needed for ideal effectiveness. One can tolerate higher levels of arousal for easy, mundane tasks without a huge amount of errors, but for a more complex, difficult task, there is an interference with performance much earlier in the picture.

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There is surprisingly not too much research that has been done on anxiety as it is hard to stabilize and keep under control subjects, so experiments are few and far between. The first is the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale which is a trait-based questionnaire that measures how much overall anxiety you have. The second is incorporating the relative situation into the test (present) which affects a person’s feeling of competency in a certain sector, in this instance, test anxiety. Sarason wanted to discover why kids with high test anxiety performed less well than their counterparts, as well as what kinds of thoughts kids who highly tested anxious had, compared to kids with low test anxiety. Through the think-aloud paradigm, he discovered for those with anxiety that there was a greater focus on themselves, with rumination and self-preoccupying thoughts. On the other hand, people without anxiety are focused on the task at hand, and not the self, concluding his belief that self-preoccupying thoughts while test-taking lead to bad performance.

Meichenbaum added another level, as he was interested as to whether an intervention with a video of effective testing strategies would improve test scores for kids with high test anxiety, and it turned out that after applying that mindset, the test scores for the experimental and control group were the same. This concludes that one strategy for stopping anxiety is by disrupting those self-preoccupying thoughts. A method that can be used to help stop one’s own test anxiety is through humor as it allows one to separate themselves from their negative thoughts, with these interventions having an immense impact on focus.

To be able to manage stressful life events, one must cope. Lazarus and Folkman theorized three quickly occurring stages of stress in a coping model. The first step is is this relevant to me or mine, and is it dangerous or at that. If so, then what am I going to do? How will I respond to the question of coping with the stressor? After having engaged in a coping strategy, ask yourself number one again; am I still in danger, and is it still relevant to me?

The most difficult part of managing anxiety is solidifying coping strategies and finding one that works best for you. Some methods discussed in class were cognitive reframing, which consists of finding a different explanation for the negative stressor, as well as direct action to deal with the stressor head-on. In the text, self-distraction and distancing are discussed as being the best ways to deal with stress that can not be avoided. For “uncontrollable shocks” activities such as listening to music, that is relaxation-inducing are the most effective to cool down. For daily stressors, these coping strategies work well, but how do regular people cope with awful life events? In SA #10 Silver considers this question, assessing unimaginable realities and determining that people can in fact recover, and at times come out with more resilience. Victims of aversive life events have to utilize the resources they have at the time to recover. 

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