Monday, February 10, 2014

Lexicon of Madness -- Yerkes-Dodson Law

Yerkes-Dodson Law: The psychological "law" that suggests that performance in moderately complex tasks is enhanced by moderate physiological arousal. Simple tasks (e.g., running a race) are performed better when accompanied by high arousal (i.e., getting yourself "pumped up" before the race), while complex tasks (e.g., playing chess) are best performed when relatively calm. People suffering from anxiety are chronically overaroused -- their bodies are responding as if their environment is full of serious threats. This leads to decreased performance in life tasks, as well as chronic tension, edginess, and fatigue. People with anxiety disorders feel unable to regulate their amount of arousal. Relaxation techniques, biofeedback, and cognitive interventions (e.g., perspective taking) can all help reduce arousal. Alcohol, a depressant, is often used by anxious people to manage their levels of arousal (e.g., the socially anxious man takes a few drinks before introducing himself at a party). Benzodiazapines (e.g., Ativan, Xanax, Valium), which are not chemically dissimiliar to alcohol, are often prescribed to patients who report excess anxiety.

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