We all have that worrisome friend (or parent, sibling, spouse) that seems to spend more time worrying over issues big and small than any other thing. They worry over the time, over the effort it takes to do something, over a missed call, a late text message, and more–which may or may not drive the rest of us absolutely crazy!
But maybe it’s time we give our worry-friend a break. New research suggests that people with worrying traits are often incredibly developed, creative people (1).
What’s the connection?
Are “Worry-Warts” Actually Geniuses?
According to researchers at King’s College in London, there is a strong connection between anxiety and an exceptionally advanced imagination (1). According to Dr. Adam Perkins, who is an expert in Neurobiology of Personality,
“It occurred to me that if you happen to have a preponderance of negatively hued self-generated thoughts, due to high levels of spontaneous activity in the parts of the medial prefrontal cortex that govern conscious perception of threat and you also have a tendency to switch to panic sooner than average people, due to possessing especially high reactivity in the basolateral nuclei of the amygdala, then that means you can experience intense negative emotions even when there’s no threat present. This could mean that for specific neural reasons, high scorers on neuroticism have a highly active imagination, which acts as a built-in threat generator” (2).
Perkins goes on to say that “In a sense, worry is the mother of invention. When you think about it, it makes sense. Many of our greatest breakthroughs through the years were a result of worry. Nuclear power? Worry over energy. Advanced weapons? Worry of invasion. Medical breakthroughs? Worry over illness and death” (1).
Some more examples…
Perkins explains very carefully about the difference between happier, non-worriers and the worrier. He explains that happy-go-lucky individuals are, by definition, dissatisfied with their life or surroundings and so much less likely to brood about issues (3). This, in turn, puts them at a disadvantage when problem solving compared to someone who is much more neurotic and has considered all the possible outcomes of a certain issue (3).
Perkins goes on to show that most of the geniuses in history had a tendency to be brooding, unhappy people with hints of high neuroticism. He gives the example of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Vincent Van Gogh, and Kurt Cobain. Perkins says, “Perhaps the link between creativity and neuroticism was summed up most succinctly of all by John Lennon when he said: ‘Genius is pain’”(3).
So, next time you find yourself growing steadily annoyed at your worrying friend, stop and take a minute to consider the facts of the matter: they are probably noticing more details than you and they are probably considering more outcomes than you.
Their worrying has direct links to other beneficial tendencies and it’s possible that they can’t help the fact that they’re worrying. While it can be difficult and even frustrating to make room for worrying in your day, try to make room for the benefits that provides as well.