Too Anxious to Relax? New Research Explores Why It Happens

By Helen Holmes on November 15, 2012

Records show that people are so much busier these days than they were decades ago. The industrial revolution and the arrival of new technology are just two of the many reasons for this. For most of us, 24 hours are not enough to do all the things we need to do in a day. That’s why taking a vacation is a must! And for some, it isn’t an option.

If you are one of those people who seem to be anxious whenever they try to relax, a researcher has developed a way to help you determine the physical, cognitive and social factors that’s preventing you from taking even just a little break.

Why are some people afraid to relax?

According to Christina Luberto, a doctoral student of Psychology at the in the University of Cincinnati, relaxation-induced anxiety is relatively common. In her study, she developed a test that can be used to assess whether an individual has this kind of anxiety. The test, called Relaxation Sensitivity Index (RSI), a 21-item questionnaire is the first of its kind to explore the fear of relaxation in three major categories – physical, cognitive and social.

The idea of relaxation sensitivity was based on the concept of anxiety sensitivity (the fear of arousal), explains Luberto. In their study, Luberto’s team found that people who have high levels of relaxation sensitivity also have high levels of anxiety sensitivity. This means that any deviation from one’s normal functioning, whether arousal or relaxation, is stressful – she added.

RSI – a reliable test for relaxation anxiety

For the study, Luberto and her team asked over 300 undergraduate college students (male and female Caucasians) with an average age of 21 to take the test. The participants stated how much each statement applies to them from a scale of 0 to 5. Examples of the statements are “I don’t like to relax because I don’t like it when my thoughts slow down”, “It scares me when my breathing becomes deeper”, and “I worry that when I let my body relax, I’ll look unattractive”.

The researchers believe that the RSI is a reliable test for measuring the relaxation-related fears experienced by many individuals. However, they call for more research to examine its effectiveness particularly on more diverse populations, such as among people with psychiatric disorders and those beyond college levels. Luberto suggests that the RSI can be used to identify who among the patients with anxiety disorders would not respond well to relaxation therapies.


Dear Reader,

As a therapist, what could you recommend to relax? Do you find a working life-style too stressful to unwind? 

Share your comments below!



Source of this article:

University of Cincinnati Research Examines Why Some People Are Afraid To Relax

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