Why some people are afraid to relax
Many people look forward to getting away on vacation or just taking some rest at home, but there are others who are afraid to relax.
A UC researcher has now developed a questionnaire, the Relaxation Sensitivity Index (RSI), to explore the physical, cognitive and social issues surrounding the anxiety related to kicking back a little.
"Relaxation-induced anxiety, or the paradoxical increase in anxiety as a result of relaxation, is a relatively common occurrence. 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," explained Christina Luberto, a doctoral student in the University of Cincinnati's Department of Psychology.
The RSI is a 21-item questionnaire that explores fears related to relaxation anxiety in three key categories:
Physical Issues - "It scares me when my breathing becomes deeper; I hate getting massages because of the feeling it creates when my muscles relax"
Cognitive Issues - "I don't like to relax because I don't like it when my thoughts slow down; I don't like to relax because it makes me feel out of control"
Social Issues - "I worry that when I let my body relax, I'll look unattractive; I worry that if I relax, other people will think I'm lazy"
Participants rate how much each statement applies to them on a scale of 0 to 5. Three-hundred undergraduate college students participated in the study. They were, on average, 21 years old, female and Caucasian.
Early results from the RSI study found that people who are high in relaxation sensitivity are also high in anxiety sensitivity.
"This suggests that for some people, any deviation from normal functioning, whether it is arousal or relaxation, is stressful," said Luberto.
Results also suggested that the RSI is a valid and reliable measure of relaxation-related fears and is able to identify which individuals have experienced increased anxiety when relaxing in the past.
Luberto stated that additional research needs to be conducted to examine the effectiveness of the RSI in more diverse populations (including beyond college age), as well as among individuals with psychiatric disorders.
Ultimately, the RSI could be used to identify patients who would not respond to being treated through relaxation therapies, which is a common component of treatment for anxiety disorders.
Preliminary findings on the RSI will be presented on Nov.17, at the 46th annual convention of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) in National Harbor, Md.