Lissek on CNN: the effects of long-term anxiety
The costs of being "better safe than sorry"
December 6, 2017
"Fear of death or fear of physical injuries is common in our world, and it doesn't matter if you're in the Cold War era or living today," said Shmuel Lissek, who runs the ANGST (Anxiety Neuroscience Grounded in cross-Species Translation) lab for the University of Minnesota and studies the brain's fear circuitry. "What makes nuclear war different is that we have no control over a nuclear threat."
We're biologically biased, he explains, to respond to even low-probability threats very seriously; after all, that's how our ancestors survived to pass along their genes. He calls it the "better safe than sorry" bias, which can lead to high levels of tension and fearfulness. When that's a short-lived reaction, we're OK. But when a threat response is maintained over weeks or months, "that's unhealthy and is associated with heart problems, autoimmune problems and emotional disorders, such as anxiety."