Monday, October 5, 2009

Understanding the Anxious Mind

In this last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, Robin Marantz Henig explores the possible genetic, biological predisposition to anxiety. The article refers to studies done by developmentalists like Jerome Kagan who have used homogenous samples of, for example, White, middle-class babies and traced their experience of anxiety in longitudinal study, across the years. What this author seems to conclude is that our brains may, in fact, get hard-wired to worry. "Born with a lower threshold for arousal", there are just certain people who tend to "stay on guard, anxious, and wired, even when the situation is not threatening (Henig, 2009)." In these cases, she explains, there is a hyperactive amygdala, the place in the brain that responds to novelty or threat (Henig).

I was moved to post this after reading it and feeling that gut-level sense that there is a lot missing in this piece. For example, although parenting is mentioned as a potential factor in the anxious behaviors of babies, young people and adults, it is considered difficult to study and inconclusive. Similarly, the article is approaching the issue from just one position, the scientific view, rather than a systems perspective or personality typology, for example. Also, what does it mean to think that using a sample of White, middle class people will somehow result in a conclusion about human behavior overall? Obviously the intention is to eliminate environmental differences, but what does that ultimately do to the relevance of the research? These are some questions I have. But, check it out and tell me what you think, too.

To read, click here.

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