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  • Rob: Hello. This is 6 Minute English I'm Rob.

  • Neil: And I'm Neil.

  • Rob: Do you ever experience anxiety, Neil?

  • Neil: Anxiety?

  • Rob: Yes, you know, a feeling of

  • being really worried or nervous

  • without any real reason.

  • Neil: Well not really, but I know for some

  • people it can be quite a serious problem.

  • Rob: Well anxiety may be a result

  • of natural selection.

  • Neil: Natural selection? You mean,

  • the principle behind evolution?

  • Rob: Yes. The idea that life on this planet

  • has developed as a result

  • of random changes

  • in biology over many many years.

  • Neil: So why have anxiety, that seems

  • like a negative rather than

  • a positive thing to develop?

  • Rob: Well, we'll find out more in this

  • programme, but before we do, a quiz.

  • Charles Darwin is famous for

  • describing evolution by natural selection.

  • What was the name of the ship he

  • travelled on when he made

  • his discoveries? Was it:

  • a) HMS Beagle, b) HMS Badger,

  • or c) HMS Bear?

  • What do you think, Neil?

  • Neil: Well I'm pretty sure I know this one,

  • so I'm not going to give away

  • the answer just yet.

  • Rob: Well, you can let me know

  • at the end of the programme, before

  • I give the answer.

  • Right, Dr Randolph Nesse is a doctor

  • and psychologist. He has written

  • a lot about how evolution has

  • an impact on our mental condition,

  • particularly anxiety. Recently he spoke

  • on BBC Radio 4's 'Start the Week'

  • programme about this topic.

  • Listen out for the answer to this question.

  • How long did he treat patients

  • at the University of Michigan for?

  • Dr Randolph Nesse: Natural selection

  • has shaped all organisms to have

  • special states to cope with certain

  • kinds of circumstances. I treated

  • patients with anxiety disorders

  • for 40 years at the University of

  • Michigan. It was only half way through

  • that I started realising

  • that anxiety is there for a good reason.

  • Rob: So Neil, how long did he treat

  • patients for at the University of Michigan?

  • Neil: He says that he did that for 40 years,

  • but it was only after about 20 years or so

  • that he realised that we suffer

  • from anxiety for a good reason.

  • Rob: We'll find out that reason shortly

  • but first he said that

  • natural selection has shaped

  • all organisms. This means that we are

  • the result of natural selection. It has

  • made us what we are.

  • Neil: And it has made us able to cope

  • with different situations. To cope

  • with means being able to deal with,

  • being able to manage

  • a difficult situation.

  • Rob: And anxiety, if it's not too great,

  • is a way of dealing

  • with particular situations.

  • Let's hear from Dr Nesse again.

  • Dr Randolph Nesse: Natural selection

  • has shaped all organisms to have

  • special states to cope

  • with certain kinds of circumstances.

  • I treated patients with anxiety disorders

  • for 40 years at the University of

  • Michigan. It was only half way through

  • that I started realising

  • that anxiety is there for a good reason.

  • Rob: So why is anxiety a necessary thing,

  • why is it something that, within reason, is

  • not a bad emotion. Here's

  • Dr Nesse talking about his patients

  • who suffer from too much anxiety.

  • Dr Randolph Nesse: What you're having

  • is a normal kind of emergency response

  • which is great in

  • life-threatening situations but

  • for you it's a false alarm like a smoke

  • detector going off when you burn

  • the toast. And after that many of my

  • patients said: 'Oh, that makes

  • perfect sense, I think I won't need

  • your help after all, doctor'.

  • Rob: So what is anxiety?

  • Neil: Well, it's your body reacting

  • to danger, like an emergency response,

  • a warning. In really dangerous

  • situations, which could harm

  • you or even kill you, which

  • Dr Nesse describes as

  • life-threatening situations, it's a useful

  • response to warn you to take action or to

  • prepare for action.

  • Rob: But some people experience anxiety

  • when there is no real danger.

  • It's a false alarm, like when you burn the

  • toast and the smoke detector alarm

  • starts or as he says, goes off!

  • And he says that some patients can feel

  • less worried after that, when they realise

  • anxiety is a natural thing.

  • Let's hear from Dr Nesse again.

  • Dr Randolph Nesse: What you're

  • having is a normal kind of emergency

  • response which is great in

  • life-threatening situations but

  • for you it's a false alarm

  • like a smoke detector going off

  • when you burn the toast. And after

  • that many of my patients said : 'Oh, that

  • makes perfect sense, I think I won't need

  • your help after all, doctor'.

  • Rob: Time now to review

  • today's vocabulary, but first,

  • let's have the answer to the quiz

  • question. What was the name of

  • the ship Charles Darwin travelled on

  • when he made his discoveries

  • about evolution? Was it:

  • a) HMS Beagle, b) HMS Badger,

  • or c) HMS Bear?

  • What do you think, Neil?

  • Neil: Well, I'm pretty sure it's HMS Beagle.

  • Rob: Well, you are right. Charles Darwin

  • travelled on HMS Beagle.

  • Congratulations if you also

  • knew that. Now, on with today's

  • vocabulary. We were talking about

  • anxiety, a feeling of

  • being worried or scared, a feeling

  • that something isn't quite right.

  • Neil: Dr Nesse suggests that anxiety is

  • a result of natural selection.

  • This is the principle of

  • evolution whereby random changes in the

  • biology of a living thing can make it more

  • likely to survive in

  • a particular environment.

  • Rob: These changes shape the

  • living thing. They make it what it is.

  • They help it to cope with

  • different situations. Which means that

  • they help it manage or

  • deal with those situations.

  • Neil: A life-threatening situation is

  • a very dangerous situation which

  • could cause serious

  • injury or even death.

  • Rob: And finally there was the

  • phrasal verb to go off. For example,

  • if an alarm goes off,

  • it means that is starts making a loud

  • noise as a warning. Right,

  • before any alarms start

  • to go off here, we need to wrap up.

  • That's all from us today, do join us

  • next time. Until then,

  • you can find us online, on social media

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