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Difference Between Facilitative Anxiety and Debilitative Anxiety

Both facilitative anxiety and debilitative anxiety involve stressors, feelings of apprehension, and interpretation of experiences. An investigation on the antecedents of facilitative and debilitative competitive anxiety concluded that readiness for competition was the most frequent identified antecedent. The research participants interpreted their anxiety to either facilitate or debilitate their performance based on how prepared they felt. 

Specifically, facilitative anxiety views stressors as challenges and assists performance. On the other hand, debilitative anxiety views stressors as threats and interferes with performance. The following discussions further look into their differences. 

What is Facilitative Anxiety? 

Facilitative anxiety assists performance (American Psychological Association, 2020). It is the level of anxiety which is perceived as motivating. People with this kind of anxiety interpret stressors as challenges instead of threats. For instance, perceiving anxiety as facilitative has been found out to be positively associated with academic performance and negatively associated with emotional exhaustion (Strack & Esteves, 2014). A related research concluded that students who experienced more facilitating test anxiety were able to have higher average test scores (Kader, 2016). Regarding sports performance, a study on the predispositions to experience debilitative and facilitative anxiety concluded that elite performers tend to interpret anxiety as facilitative. Moreover, the anxiety intensity levels were found out to be lower for those who viewed the experience as facilitative rather than debilitative (Jones, Hanton, & Swain, 1994). 

Hence, it is suggested that it is beneficial to label anxiety as facilitative. When the situation is evaluated as beneficial for mental preparation and performance, individuals can have a sense of control. This way, performers may be able to better cope with their anxiety and achieve their objectives. 

What is Debilitative Anxiety? 

Debilitative anxiety interferes with performance (American Psychological Association, 2020). It is the level of anxiety which is perceived as threatening.  A study implied that perceiving anxiety as debilitative is associated with emotional exhaustion (Strack & Esteves, 2014). A similar study found out that students who experienced debilitating test anxiety had lower average class scores for the semester (Kader, 2016). Regarding sports performance, the intensity of anxiety levels was higher for those who viewed their experience as debilitative as compared to those who interpreted their situation as facilitative (Jones, Hanton, & Swain, 1994).  

Individuals with this kind of anxiety are in a state of worry and/or fear as they interpret stressors as threats. Due to feelings of unease, an individual cannot effectively function in a certain situation. Debilitative anxiety is often characterized by avoiding tasks. For example, an applicant who interprets the job interview as a threat did not show up to his appointment. 

Difference between Facilitative Anxiety and Debilitative Anxiety

Definition 

Facilitative anxiety assists performance. It is the level of anxiety which is perceived as motivating. On the other hand, Debilitative anxiety interferes with performance. It is the level of anxiety which is perceived as threatening or emotionally exhausting (American Psychological Association, 2020).

Interpretation of Stressors 

People with facilitative anxiety interpret stressors as challenges instead of threats. On the contrary, those with debilitative anxiety view stressors as threats, not challenges. 

Academic Performance 

A research conducted by Strack and Esteves (2014) found out that perceiving anxiety as facilitative has been positively associated with academic performance. This may then imply that perceiving anxiety as debilitative is associated with a low level of academic performance. Moreover, a related study concluded that students who experienced more facilitating test anxiety were able to have higher average test scores while those who experienced debilitating test anxiety had lower average class scores for the semester (Kader, 2016).

Sports Performance 

A study on the predispositions to experience debilitative and facilitative anxiety in sports performance concluded that elite performers tend to interpret anxiety as facilitative. Moreover, the anxiety intensity levels were found out to be lower for the swimmers who viewed the experience as facilitative rather than debilitative (Jones, Hanton, & Swain, 1994).  

Attitude towards Tasks 

Facilitative anxiety is often exemplified by accomplishing tasks while debilitative anxiety is often characterized by avoiding tasks.

Facilitative Anxiety vs Debilitative Anxiety 

Summary 

  • Facilitative anxiety views stressors as challenges and assists performance.
  • Debilitative anxiety views stressors as threats and interferes with performance.
  • Researchers found out that facilitative anxiety increases academic performance. 
  • Studies show that debilitative anxiety is associated with non-elite performers. 
  • Readiness for competition was the most frequent identified antecedent regarding facilitative and debilitative competitive anxiety.
  • Both facilitative anxiety and debilitative anxiety involve stressors, feelings of apprehension, and interpretation of experiences. 


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References :


[0]American Psychological Association (2020). Facilitative anxiety. https://dictionary.apa.org/facilitative-anxiety

[1]Kader, A. (2016). Debilitating and facilitating test anxiety and student motivation and achievement in principles of microeconomics. International Review of Economics Education. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1477388015302280

[2]Strack, J. & Esteves, F. (2014). Exams? Why worry? Interpreting anxiety as facilitative and stress appraisals. Anxiety Stress Coping https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24902852/

[3]Image credit: https://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/handwriting/images/anxiety.jpg

[4]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ANXIETY.jpg

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