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David Baxter

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Anxiety doesn't detract from happiness
August 17, 2004

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario (UPI) -- A University of Toronto study found, while depression has impacts a person's satisfaction in life, being anxious does not.

"On the negative side, wouldn't you have thought that depressed is bad, but depressed and anxious is worse?" said Ulrich Schimmack, of the of the University of Toronto at Mississauga, Ontario.

"Actually, all that matters is how depressed you are, and after that, anxiety doesn't seem to influence your level of life satisfaction."

The study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that people who are depressed are more likely than others to be anxious, but anxiety is a short-term response to a stress or threat and when resolved it doesn't enter in an assessment of life satisfaction.

The strong influence of depression is more detrimental to life satisfaction than stress and worries, according to Schimmack.
 

Daniel

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The strong influence of depression is more detrimental to life satisfaction than stress and worries, according to Schimmack.

This makes some sense. Anxiety, for example, can easily be more life-affirming than depression because anxiety can be expressed as a high level of concern about something deemed positive. Such anxious concern can be often seen in game show contestants. In contrast, suicidal ideation is inherent at a certain level of depression.

To summarize, anxiety can result from playing a game too seriously while depression is the feeling that the game is over.

Of course, this is just a big generalization. An extremely high level of chronic anxiety could easily be more painful than a moderate level of acute depression.
 

David Baxter

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Daniel said:
Of course, this is just a big generalization. An extremely high level of chronic anxiety would easily be more detrimental than a moderate, short-lived episode of depression.
I agree. There's not a lot of information about the study in that breief report but I suspect there are some methodological factors that would limit the conclusions.

The chronicity of anxiety or depression is certainly one of those factors, and one should also remember that the two conditions are somewhat linked. For example, chronic depression, especially if accompanied by repeated thoughts of suicide, can lead to a great deal of anxiety and fear; conversely, chronic unrelentant stress or anxiety may lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness which can in turn lead to depression.
 

Daniel

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Anxiety can be more life-affirming than depression when it comes to suicide. Fear of a botched suicide attempt has prevented many a suicide.
 

Daniel

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The more I think about it, depression can be just as life-affirming as anxiety, at least from an evolutionary perspective. Obviously, feelings of depression have had a role in keeping our ancestors and their genes alive by helping them avoid or repeat mistakes.
 

David Baxter

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Yes. And if you extend that evolutionary perspective to think about man as a social being with a universal need for affiliation and connectedness (love, belonging, etc.), many or most of the psychological traits or features which create vulnerability to depression -- introspection, self-analysis, self-doubt, empathy, perspective-taking, etc. -- are the same as the traits that make that individual attractive to others as a friend, confidante, or mate. As with many things, it is a double-edged sword, neither all good nor all bad.

Except of course when one is in the pit of a major depressive episode -- it's hard to see anything good about that at the time.
 

Ash

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Interesting. I can only speak for myself here but I hate anxiety more than depression. It's almost impossible for me to get past anxiety and truly be "calm". While I don't enjoy depression (who does!), I would prefer that feeling to the constant anxiety that I experience.
 

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