Anxiety related to relaxation


Can’t sit still? No relaxing for you? New research shows there may be physical, cognitive and social issues surrounding the anxiety related to kicking back.

While many people look forward to getting away on vacation or enjoying their home on "staycation," others get anxious about taking time off to relax—with anxiety rates as high as public speaking for some.

The paradoxical relationship of relaxation to anxiety

Christina Luberto, doctoral student at University of Cincinnati’s Department of Psychology, has created a questionnaire called the Relaxation Sensitivity Index (RSI) to look more closely at the phenomenon.

"Relaxation-induced anxiety, or the paradoxical increase in anxiety as a result of relaxation, is a relatively common occurrence," stated Luberto. "We wanted to develop a test to examine why certain individuals fear relaxation events or sensations associated with taking a time-out just to relax."

Relaxation anxiety related to arousal anxiety

The idea is based on a related concept of anxiety sensitivity, which is the fear of arousal. During the early phase of the RSI study, Luberto found that people who were high in relaxation sensitivity were also high in anxiety sensitivity. “This suggests that for some people, any deviation from normal functioning, whether it is arousal or relaxation, is stressful,” she explained.

Could lead to better therapy for anxiety disorders

Additional research is needed to look at the effectiveness of the RSI in diverse populations. So far it’s only been tested on female college students. Later, it could be used to identify patients who do not respond to treatment with relaxation therapies, a common approach to anxiety disorders.

Sources: UC Department of Psychology, MedicalNewsToday

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