Is there an upside to having an anxious temperament?

Let’s face it—some of us are just born with an anxious temperament.

Through no fault of their own (or their parents), people with an anxious temperament have a nervous system that is ready to jump into action at the slightest provocation.

  • If a door slams, they jump higher!
  • If riding a roller-coaster, their hearts pound harder!
  • In new situations, they are extra cautious.

Sounds rough, but is there an upside? Definitely!

The person with an anxious temperament has a body like a high-powered sports car, while the rest of us are driving sensible mini-vans.

I drove a very fast Mustang once when I was a teenager. It really was difficult to drive slowly in that car! I just barely touched the gas pedal and was half-way down the street before I knew what was happening. The body of someone with an anxious temperament functions very similarly. While scary situations might send it from zero to sixty in no time at all, pleasant situations can be intensified, as well.

People with easily revved up nervous systems can take great pleasure in some of the simpler things in life such as:

  • Walking on the beach
  • Viewing a sunset
  • Stopping and smelling the roses
  • Becoming absorbed into movies and television shows
  • Listening to favorite songs
  • Receiving a massage

Just as they feel the anxiety to a higher degree, they can feel the good things more strongly, as well.

An anxious temperament may also lead to people being more caring and empathic towards others. Furthermore, people with an anxious temperament are often highly creative and conscientious.

If you are someone with an anxious temperament, you are driving a high-performance sports car of a body. Enjoy the drive when you can, but learn to slow down when speeding will only get you into trouble.

Eric Goodman, Ph.D.

coastalcenter.org