Recent research indicates that such anxiety is far more widespread than formerly believed. Many people are completely unaware of having this condition, yet it influences their physiology considerably, causing chronic stress that leads, for example, to hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.
A recent study even found that people can feel fine and “unstressed”, even when blood tests shows a high level of stress.
SURVIVAL-ORIENTED-BEHAVIOR – SUPPRESSES INTELLIGENCE AND JUDGMENT
Stress causes “survival-oriented-behavior” (SOB), which is purposeful for surviving acute danger. The prefrontal brain cortex, responsible for intelligent and insightful behavior is switched off, because when you are attacked by for example a grizzly bear, you don’t have time to reflect upon what to do. In stead the “survival centers” in the midbrain take over and make the brain react instantly in an instinctive, primitive way, like dashing away in panic.
BRAIN IMAGING DEMONSTRATES THE SUPPRESSION OF HIGHER BRAIN CENTRES IN SOB
Below is a picture from brain imaging showing a brain with pronounced SOB to the right. The “holes” are in the prefrontal cortex. They don’t represent anatomic holes, but indicate that those areas are inactive. In the high SOB case to the right large parts of the prefrontal cortex were inactive. So here is concrete evidence that the “intelligence and judgement” centre is suppressed in SOB.
SOB PEOPLE MAY SEEM PSYCHOLOGICALLY PERFECTLY NORMAL
Persons with chronic, subconscious anxiety can feel and appear perfectly normal psychologically, but they may have signs of chronic stress like for example psychosomatic disorders, including headaches, backaches, migraines, gastritis or ulcers, hypertension (if they are genetically predisposed for it) angina pectoris, heart attacks or certain heart rythm disturbances.
But, for decades, quite many SOB people may not have any subjective symptoms until the damaging effects of chronic stress takes its toll, for example as deranged blood fats, or a myocardial infarction, or hypertension, or adult-onset (type 2) diabetes, or all of these combined (metabolic syndrome), to mention a few common effects.
Or if they have a strong physiology, they may ultimately develop mainly mental problems like insomnia, mental tensions and worries, depressions and concentration difficulties, chronic fatigue. This pattern is commonly called “stress burnout”.
There are now well established methods for recognizing people prone to more or less persistent survival-oriented-behavior.
Even if intelligent, experienced and competent, a SOB person cannot make justice to his talents and knowledge because of the suppression of the higher centers of the brain, especially in stressful conditions.
DEFENSE MECHANISMS – MAY CAUSE IMPORTANT JUDGMENT ERRORS
As anxiety is very uncomfortable, people tend to establish strategies to suppress it. A common strategy, is the subconscious use of defense mechanisms. They are psychological “blinders” that help alleviate anxiety by distorting or blocking the experience of the anxiety-provoking situation. A pilot, flying at low altitude might for example ignore or misinterpret the significance of a red blinking sign that means great danger. He might even believe it is green.
These reality-distorting mechanisms can thus seriously interfere with judgment, adding to the brain dysfunction caused by the suppression of the frontal cortex.
This is the more problematic, as SOB brings about increased impulsiveness, aggressiveness and shortsightedness, especially so under pressing conditions.
STRESS-PRONE WORLD LEADERS A DANGER TO THE WORLD
It is evident that a leader with SOB runs the risk of making serious mistakes especially when he works under high stress. This might be dangerous especially with the present serious global economic crisis which demands that the leaders of the nation have a clear, intelligent and realistic judgment capability and a stable psychology with good impulse control.
Therefore, for top positions, people should be selecected who don’t have this serious weakness. Experience and formal academic merits are insufficient as criteria for suitability as such qualifcations cannot be adequately applied in SOB.
It is necessary to use reliable tests, because SOB is not always evident in the behavior of a person.
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