Science Explains How Pessimism Increases Anxiety

Certain lifestyle factors and circumstances can trigger anxiety, but personality traits like pessimism may also exacerbate nervousness. Our attitude about life colors every experience, so having a negative outlook will lead to more unpleasant outcomes. Of course, optimists also struggle with their mental health sometimes, but pessimistic people seem to get stuck in a rut more often

They may eventually find it easier to dwell on negativity than try to move past the feelings. That way, nothing disappoints them since they’re already in a sour mood. There’s nothing wrong with accepting the darker aspects of life rather than running from them. But, it becomes a problem when people start to anticipate or wallow in despair.

Pessimism can affect everything from decision-making skills to physical health, proving that our thoughts and moods directly influence reality. Having a cynical personality can lead to inaccurate predictions and cloud judgment. That’s the premise of a recent study investigating how student expectations of exam grades can reveal their overall outlook on life.

“Whether we are conscious of it or not, we’re always forming expectations,” said Aaron Heller, senior author in the study and an associate professor in the Department of Psychology. “Whenever our expectations turned out to be wrong, they become a learning signal that we use to form better expectations in the future.”

Pessimistic people tend to have low expectations of themselves and others to avoid being let down. However, this usually sets them up for mental health problems like anxiety in the future.

The study authors wrote, “Individuals with elevated negative emotionality, a personality trait linked to the development of anxiety disorders, displayed a global pessimism and learning differences that impeded accurate expectations and predicted future anxiety symptoms.”

Below, we’ll discuss the study in greater detail and provide some coping mechanisms for anxiety.