Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

A simple way to help with exam nerves - new research

A simple way to help with exam nerves - new research

Researchers from Universities in the Netherlands and Australia have just published an interesting paper reporting on a series of experiments they conducted on school children taking exams.

One of the big problems that anxiety causes during exams is that it degrades performance significantly. In particular it it uses up valuable processing power in the brain, particularly in the areas used for working memory, which is a vital component especially during tests. We use the working memory to store short term information whilst we are working things out during an exam.

The researchers tested the hypothesis that if the students simply read through all of the questions before starting to answer anything, this would in effect reduce some of the anticipatory anxiety and as a consequence lower the loading on the working memory. The result of this should be more 'space' for problem solving and therefore better results.

The researchers showed the method of reading through all of the questions before putting pen to paper to 50% of a group of 117 students, chosen at random before a real exam. Those students that did read through the exam paper first performed significantly better than those that didn't. Additionally the students who carried out the tactic reported lower levels of anxiety during the exam compared to those that didn't.
Interestingly this tactic worked regardless of the level of anxiety the student was experiencing before the exam.

I have a free live webinar you can join next Wednesday all about the latest research on How We Catch Fear and Anxiety. Click here to find out more and book a free place.

 

Free Online Seminar - How We Catch Fear And Anxiety

 

Reference

Mavilidi, M., & Hoogerheide, V (2014) A Quick and Easy Strategy to Reduce Test Anxiety and Enhance Test Performance. Applied Cognitive Psychology. 1099-0720 August 2014 DOI: 10.1002/acp.3058

 

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The Top 10 Fears / Anxieties And How Long It Takes To Treat Them

The Top 10 Fears / Anxieties And How Long It Takes To Treat Them

Every year I do an audit of the anxieties and fears we treat and how long it took to treat them. There are five numbers to look at.

  1. Frequency - the number of people presenting with a particular fear or anxiety.
  2. Control average - The average time (in days) it took to get the fear or anxiety to level 3 (0 = no feelings of anxiety or fear. 10 = Maximum anxiety and fear feelings). Level 3 is a definition of the disorder being under control by the individual. Most people present to us at levels 8-10.
  3. Control range - How long in days (quickest to longest) it took to get the disorder to get to level 3 (see notes above).
  4. Discharge average - the average time (in days) it took individuals to feel they had the fear or anxiety under control enough to discharge themselves from the programme. Usually at level 0.
  5. Discharge range - How long in days (quickest to longest) it took to get the disorder under complete control (to get to level 0 or 1) and to discharge themselves or leave the programme having been successfully treated.
Anxiety / Fear   Frequency 

 Control Av 

 Control Rng   Discharge Av   Discharge Rng 
1. General Anxiety Disorder 403 12 4 - 21 16 11 - 33
2. Social Anxiety Disorders * 368 9 3 - 16 16 13 - 21
3. Fear of Rejection 360 10 7 - 14 16 12 - 22
4. Fear of Failure 337 11 7 - 20 17 14 - 31
5. Fear of Meetings 324 9 5 - 17 15 7 - 20
6. Panic or Anxiety Attacks 211 7 2 - 9 10 6 - 19
7. Public Speaking Anxieties 209 8 5 - 16 15 7 - 19
8. Agoraphobia 194 7 3 - 22 19 8 - 34
9. Sexual Performance Anxieties  162 14 7 - 30 23 11 - 38
10. Fear of Flying 131 9 7 - 18 16 12 - 19

 

*Social anxiety disorders (SAD) include fears and anxieties around being in social situations, meeting people, dating, having to talk to people unexpectedly, going to gatherings etc.

Notes:

  1. The top three fears and anxieties tend (but not always) to be versions of a fear of rejection.
  2. When I started conducting therapeutic interventions the presence I was surprised about the predominance of a fear of meetings. At first I assumed a fear of meetings was a subset of public speaking anxieties, however over the years I have come to recognise both the prevalence of this disorder and its grounding in a fear of rejection, social anxieties and public speaking issues.
  3. The treatment times are only for the period until the disorder is brought down to levels 0 (no anxiety) or 1 (aware of a minor heightened sense of arousal) this does not include the confidence and assertiveness phases of the programme. I firmly believe that to just treat an anxiety or fear is not enough as it leaves the client susceptible to forming similar fears and anxieties at a later date. To prevent this I usually include a confidence and assertiveness skills course to prevent this occurring.

 

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The effects of pre-operation anxiety on the recovery of heart surgery patients

The effects of pre-operation anxiety on the recovery of heart surgery patients

A study just released in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looked at the connection between pre-operation anxiety levels in patients and how well those patients improved during the first year after the surgery.

The study by a group of cardiologists looked at the anxiety levels of patients just before they were to undergo heart surgery. They then tracked those patients for the first year of their recovery after the surgery to see if there was any impact of the anxiety levels on their quality of life during recovery. The study followed 720 patients who were operated on and measured their levels of anxiety just before the operation. They found that almost half (347 or 48%) of the patients had what could be described as high levels of anxiety just before the operation.

The researchers found that both the high and low anxiety groups had similar operation success rates, however the recovery of the high anxiety group was much slower and their quality of life had significantly poorer improvement outcomes.

This level of evidence should be a call to health providers and patients to ensure the patients are equipped to lower their levels of anxiety before surgery. occurs.

Reference

Mohanty, S. et al (2014) Baseline anxiety impacts improvement in quality of life in atrial fibrillation undergoing catheter albtion. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;63(12_S):. doi:10.1016/S0735-1097(14)60395-8

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Flight MH370; Fear, Anxiety and uncertainty

Flight MH370; Fear, Anxiety and uncertainty

Its a week since flight MH370 disappeared on it's night time flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and the grief of relatives has turned to a mixture of grief, fear and anxiety as new facts emerge about the strange movements of the flight that night and the revelation that the aircraft's transponder appears to have been manually turned off, coupled with the mystery about the two passengers who boarded the plane using stolen passports. As the situation unfolds the poor relatives are left with confusing, conflicting and ambiguous reports and a heavy uncertainty prevails about the fate of their loved ones.

As human beings, we have a natural tendency to want certainty, particularly in stressful situations. Not knowing and ambiguity adds to the stress and increases fear and anxiety. The ambiguity of this situation is undoubtedly making the situation worse for the relatives as grief and fear swings to hope as the possibility of a hijack appears to be back on the agenda again, which in turn leads to anxiety.

Uncertainty and ambiguity makes fear and anxiety worse. It leaves us without control. The lack of control means that there are few if any actions we can take to make the situation better or at least distract us from the grief, at least temporarily. As an ex-police officer I have seen this occur on many occasions where we were searching for a missing child and the parents have had to stay at home in case the child returned and also to keep the emotion out of the search procedures. The effect on the poor parents, having little control and awash with the emotions of fear, anxiety and grief and nothing to do that can at least distract them and give the feeling they are at least doing something is terrible.

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