Something to worry about

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As the curmudgeon Fred Dobbs might have said, "Well, guess what they've gone and invented in this great land of ours. They've gone and invented a new disease.”

According to Maclean's Magazine this scourge is spread all over the USA as well as here in Canada. Ordinary folk call it worry.

They say worry has been part of the human condition ever since Adam ate the apple. They say women suffer from it more than men. That's only justice, since Eve talked Adam into trying the forbidden fruit.

In 1980, not satisfied with the old fashioned word, worry was renamed generalized anxiety disorder. That's GAD for short. Isn't that the way of it? Sesquipedalian types invent a term to make themselves sound like members of Mensa but they are too lazy to type it. They shorten it so nobody knows what they are talking about. Maybe it pleases them to use jargon that the unwashed don't understand. Kids love to announce, "I know something you don't know!"

Somehow geneticists have identified a gene, the... wait for it... COMT gene, originally called the Woody Allen gene that shows a genetic relationship to GAD. This gene encodes an enzyme that clears dopamine from the prefrontal cortex of the brain. It comes in two strengths, a fast-acting one and a slower-acting one. The slower one makes worrying easy. The faster one lets the human mind figure out how to cope with things rather than just dither. It's called the warrior gene.

Bet you Rob Ford has the faster one.

Worry isn't a virus that finds it's way into cells by some sort of physical contact. Still, worry is called a virus of sorts. It passes from brain to brain via sight and sound. People of all ages see expressions on others' faces that trigger thoughts, some good, some not. As perception matures floods of inputs from people, from media, from the Internet, from alarmist cover stories in magazines feed the GAD if the COMT gene is present in its weaker form. They say 22% of women will report worrying on a daily or weekly basis, 16% of men will.

It may be just that men don't recognize situations like being late for happy hour as a GAD matter.

Barbara Amiel highlights a powerful transmitter of GAD in the same issue of Maclean's with WORRY in six-centimetre-high type splashed across the cover. She writes, "Nowadays TV newspeople must talk in exclamation marks.”

Besides the exclamatory style, reporters' voices drip with GAD. It's a double injection of the virus.

Did you notice the item in this newspaper last week headed Board shuts door on costly locks, cameras? Thames Valley District (TVD) school board trustees voted to pass up the offer of money from the province to install locks and security cameras at the school entrances. Ex premier Dalton McGinty came up with this new way to increase Ontario's debt following the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut. It was called the Safe Welcome program.

Like airport security, it was more cosmetic than functional. Loonies with guns don't always enter through front doors, and they know how to get through or around locked entrances. The effect on students, staff, and the entire community is to inject the GAD virus.

TVD trustees' decision in this matter is a gleam of hope through the gloom of "Is your job safe?" and "Is Sochi safe?" et cetera, et cetera.

Before you take offence at the use of the fall of man myth and call the editor, let me assure you I don't blame the ills of the world on Eve or Pandora or any other woman. It's merely a neat way of saying worry is as old as humanity.

 

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