Anxiety Can Make You Unprepared

Remember the time you had that really important job interview? You spent all week simulating every possible scenario in your head. You were so stressed and obsessed that you started stupid fights with your significant other, went three days without seeing the sun, and ate enough MSG to kill a small rodent. But it was all worth it because those hours spent ruminating about your interview left you wholly prepared for any challenging questions.

Or maybe not. A recent study that examined disaster preparedness found that anxiety makes you prepare less.

The thrust of this study is to understand the responses of anxiety-prone people to threats like natural disasters. It examines whether anxiety influences disaster preparedness, and whether disaster education and resources mediate between anxiety and disaster preparedness. Data were collected from 300 people, each from flood-prone and heat-wave-affected areas in Orissa, India. Controlling for the influence of age and family type, the results revealed that trait anxiety decreased flood and heat-wave preparedness.

Two points. First, the study completely busts the archetype of the crazy man stocking his bomb shelter and waiting for the apocalypse. If somebody really believed doomsday was coming, they would have too much anxiety to prepare for it.

Second, although the study deals with a fairly specific case, it seems plausible that our everyday ruminations also detract from our ability to adequately prepare for things in life (and thus prevent future anxieties.) That’s not to say that you should never dwell on something because you might risk increasing your anxiety, but it’s important to remember that our brains are good at thinking on the fly. That’s why humans and not gazelles own all the fancy California beachfront property. When we overanalyze, we quickly reach a point of diminishing returns, and as this study demonstrates, the returns can sometimes fall below nothing.  So next time you start obsessing, take a break and think about something else (for example, who is your least-liked Facebook friend?)

Mishra, S., & Suar, D. (2011). Effects of Anxiety, Disaster Education, and Resources on Disaster Preparedness Behavior Journal of Applied Social Psychology DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00853.x

5 Responses to Anxiety Can Make You Unprepared

  1. Devon says:

    I do agree that anxiety can become a problem; in fact, it has been shown in studies that anxiety affects test scores of students, but sometimes people with anxiety are more aware of what they are saying and pay more attention to what they are saying carefully–most people do have anxiety in interviews, but sometimes anxiety actually makes one scared making them want to prepare. I have had several episodes when I thought I wasn’t going to pass a class and the anxiety made me study harder and get better grades; it depends in my opinion…

  2. Katie K says:

    I agree with the post above. Anxiety can make you feel unprepared. I’ve also had anxiety episodes when taking tests especially in math because it wasn’t my best subject. I would study and know all the stuff but I still felt anxious until I walked out of the classroom. It may not always be anxiety in some situations, such as an interview, it could just be the nervousness of knowing you’re about to talk to someone for a furture job.

  3. Katie V. says:

    I feel that there is a fine line between feeling anxious and dealing with actual anxiety. Being anxious might be your friend by helping you to prepare for a situation, as was stated in the first paragraph above. However, dealing with anxiety would definitely not be a helping factor. The disruption’s of one’s cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal ways of life is enough to discourage them to pursue whatever it is that is giving them the anxiety. This may even lead to moderate to severe panic attacks for an individual. I absolutely agree with this post in saying that anxiety does not really help with preparedness and can be a huge burden in someone’s life.

  4. Kyle Sample says:

    I think that everyone would feel anxiety towards giving a presentation or preparing for a test but each person handles it differently. If it effects you as much to make you more unprepared for something then it could be classified as an anxiety disorder instead of just common anxiety. I agree with the post above though. Sometimes I feel like I go through this when I study for a test and am anxious to take it and study for it but then still am nervous and anxious as I walk out of the class because I felt like I had forgotten the material covered on the test.

  5. Jake says:

    It all depends on how severe the anxiety is, really. If someone is anxious and quickly does something to prepare for a certain event and feels satisfied afterward, thats okay. But in other cases, someone may have worse anxiety and even after they try and try to prepare for something they still feel worried that they did not accomplish a task and therefore turns in to them running around scared and not getting anything done.

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