By: Cat Ebeling, RN, MSN-PHN, co-author of the best-sellers: The Fat Burning Kitchen, The Top 101 Foods that Fight Aging & The Diabetes Fix
How do you handle stressful events? Do you seek out adventure, excitement and risky situations? Or do you sometimes lie awake at night worrying, strategizing and planning?
Most of us are either worriers or warriors—and it turns out there’s actually a genetic reason for this.
What’s the difference?
- Worriers tend to fight within, while warriors go out and fight the problem.
- Worriers often focus on what could go wrong, while warriors just go out there and go for it.
- If a worrier loses, they may feel defeated and not want to take the chance again. If a warrior loses, they tend to regroup and get back into the fight.
You know the old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Well, some warriors need the going to get tough–just to get going!
We process information in the prefrontal cortex portion of the brain, which is responsible for problem solving, working memory, reasoning, planning and self-control. The brain needs neurotransmitters to perform these function properly. The excitatory brain chemicals involved in this process include dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Dopamine is the fuel that gets us going and motivated to get things done. Too little and we have no motivation or drive; too much and we cannot concentrate and function well. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are brain chemicals that are released when our bodies react to stress of any kind.
These neurotransmitters increase arousal and alertness, focuses attention but also increases restlessness and anxiety. In the rest of the body, norepinephrine increases the heart rate, triggers the release of glucose into the bloodstream and increases blood flow to muscles.
However, the speed at which we clear out these chemicals revolves around a specific gene. It’s called the COMT gene, or Catechol-O-methyl transferase. COMT is actually an enzyme that metabolizes dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and even estrogen. While we all have this gene, some of us have a ‘fast’ COMT and some of us have ‘slow’ COMT.
The fast version of COMT clears out dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine quickly, leaving it easy for these folks to continue on their journey without any anxiety, worrying, stress, etc. People with the fast COMT are the warriors.
Warriors need a level of stress to feel motivated and ambitious. Warriors work well in threatening environments where maximal performance is required despite threat and pain. Warriors also tend to be those dopamine junkies who seek out excitement, adventure, competition and even danger. But warriors can generally stand up in the heat of the moment and pull off a flawless performance—in spite of stress, anxiety, nervousness and lots of adrenaline.
On the other hand, those who have slow COMT are slow to clear out those excitatory brain chemicals. This can create anxiety or tension in times of stress. However, these higher levels of dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine are useful in more complex and calmer environments that require maximal performance in terms of thought, memory and attention for survival.
While it may seem advantageous to be a warrior, there certainly are advantages to being a worrier also. Over the course of evolution, both warriors and worriers were necessary for human tribes to survive.
Which One Are You?
Do you tend to worry about things, fall apart when times are stressful, or do you get energized and motivated under duress? We each get a copy of a specific version of the COMT gene from our parents. Most of us generally have a one copy of a worrier gene and one copy of the warrior gene, although there are quite few people who may have a double copy of the warrior gene. And some of us have a double copy of the worrier gene variation.
About a quarter of us actually have the slow variant and when we’re stressed, we become worriers. Another quarter of us have the fast variant — we probably don’t function as well as the slow COMT’s when things are calm, but under stress we can become warriors and can outshine the competition. And 50% of us are half and half—half worrier, half warrior.
What do we do about our COMT inheritance? If we’re stuck with the “slow” variant, how do we learn to deal better with stress? It boils down to our nutrition and how we think.
Our COMT gene is a methylation gene, meaning that it is necessary to get adequate B vitamins (in the correct form) to support the COMT gene. B2, B6, B9 and B12 are especially important, along with magnesium and vitamin C. Worriers may also benefit from taking SAMe.
People with a slow COMT, or the worriers, should also avoid foods containing catechols. Reducing foods that contain tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine (any high protein food) should help as these foods are converted into dopamine.
Limiting caffeine can also be helpful as caffeine can aggravate the symptoms of stress, worry and anxiety. And limit your intake of alcohol, since alcohol consumption triggers dopamine release.
Women who have excess estrogen in their bodies (estrogen dominant) usually have slow COMT as well as estrogen tends to slow down COMT processing. It’s important to avoid Xenoestrogens (artificial estrogens) in foods as well–especially in dairy, soy and personal care products.
Additionally, those with a slow COMT should limit intake of foods containing certain flavonoids such as green tea, capers, cilantro, berries and apples.
And for those who are warriors, having deadlines and a little pressure may help push performance to a higher level. Boring, repetitive tasks and low-pressure environments are often very detrimental to warriors and can cause them to produce mediocre results.
Dietarily, catecholamines like coffee, chocolate, green tea, black tea, citrus, and bananas help give a needed dopamine boost and can help warriors who need it get through low-pressure tasks.
Certain types of exercise like weight lifting, sprinting and chopping wood may prove to be more beneficial for the worriers by increasing their testosterone levels and helping clear out excess dopamine and adrenaline when stressed.
Exercise for warriors that gives an element of a thrill such as mountain biking, downhill skiing, surfing or racing, etc., is great to keep dopamine elevated in warriors.
There you have it—worrier or warrior. There is a genetic connection to both of these personality types. If you find that you are either worrying too much or are too much of warrior, there are dietary interventions that may help even out how quickly you process certain brain chemicals.
Keep in mind, chronic long-term negative stress can be harmful to anyone and should be avoided if at all possible. On the other hand, performance-enhancing stress such as public speaking or competing in an athletic even can be beneficial to both personality types. This will help you become more resilient to stress in the long run.
Worriers and warriors have an important place in our society. Finding what works best for you is key along with proper nutrition, the right vitamins, and suitable activity.
Seems I started out as a worrier in life but after unintentionally graduating from several schools of hard knocks, I evolved to a warrior. After temporarily dying a couple times, I no longer worry about earthly things although I do try to make them work as long as I am around to do so. The first time I died was under water for around ten minutes while in the Navy, and after that I figured that if I was supposed to die permanently, I would have done so. It would take many pages to explain the details of all this and other experiences, but will hit on only a few highlights herein. During ensuing things like walking through showers of 50 ca’s flying around on deck off Quang Tri beach in 1972, I was not the least bit worried. Ditto later on when flying in a military jet that got hit by lightning almost continuously for 60 miles at night time in PI, while all other passengers were going through hysterics, I simply shrugged it off as entertainment. After the military I somewhat worried about financial problems but even those have subsided because I learned that worry accomplishes nothing and therefore if I was able to do anything about various situations, I did. If I was not able to do anything about them, then I figured they were meant to be.
During service 1969, 70, 71, & 72, myself and another friend in my department from WI were regularly called on when a very difficult thing needed to be done or a miracle of sorts. We always did what we were asked to volunteer for as though it was a matter of course. Only after many years of reflection do I realize now how dangerous these things were, like climbing out onto the side of the ship on ropes we designed during a nasty storm in 1971 at pitch dark night time while going through the Bering strait, to patch a leak in the porthole of the Captain’s cabin/stateroom, and getting dunked several times in the zillions of freezing slush needles while ignoring them and actually patching the leak. We were able to “splice the main brace” after that with the Captain and ship’s doctor who poured us two tall mugs of rum or whiskey to ward of pneumonia. They had previously announced that if anyone fell overboard they would not even bother to look for them because they would die of exposure before a boat could be launched.
Or steering the 570+ foot ship USS Denver (LPD-9), an amphibious assault ship, through a very nasty typhoon on our maiden voyage in early 1970 at night time that resulted in the compass exceeding capsize numerous times by as much as 4.5+ degrees for four+ hours. I often saw the compass hit 43+ degrees while capsize was set at 39 degrees by the engineers who built her. I was not allowed to be relieved from that helm watch until the worst of the storm was over because I had discovered or at least was mysteriously inspired with gifted abilities that could not be taught. I became one with the ship and used every ounce of hidden tilt such as the length of the flight deck and its delay in swerve versus the bridge where the compass was positioned off-center. I also knew that most heavy equipment was stationed at the front of the well deck and that no helicopters were on the flight deck. I knew the depth, the weight, the height and width of all areas of the ship — most of this just came to me out of nowhere. Playing that knowledge benefit I was nearly always swinging the wheel lightning fast in the opposite direction of the last major wave while relying on the flight deck delay to reach its maximum sway at the same time that the rest of the ship was already leaning in the opposite direction. The guys in after-steering must have thought I was nuts, but I never ever found out who was on watch back there or what they went through. By doing all this I achieved a strange balance, while one part of the ship was always protecting the ship the other part was endangering her. By the time my arms were ready to fall off I got something like a second wind and continued on, hour after hour. Never once did my eyes leave the compass even though things and people were flying all around. The Captain got off his chair once and came over to watch me for awhile.
Due to loss of several large rubber lifeboats in the higher upper decks, we were able to calculate the next day during inspection that we had to have exceeded 250 foot waves which washed these heavy articles completely out of their cages with no trace they ever existed. These were large, folded up 25-man boats fully equipped and supplied and each weighed around 6-800 pounds. Famed psychic Jeane Dixon who also predicted the JFK assassination, had made numerous predictions about this ship back in 1958, several years before the keel was laid to build her which took around four years. She accurately predicted its name, the year she would be commissioned, lots of other things, and that she would become a major sea catastrophe on her maiden voyage — she was almost right on that last one. Lots of sailors slept with their life jackets. I was on her for over three years and that typhoon was the closest we ever came to becoming a major catastrophe. During the time I steered her through that storm, I prayed like never before, I thanked each and every person who built her including welders and riveters, for building her strong enough to withstand this nasty storm. I remember doing that but talk about multi-tasking! At the time, I did not correlate this storm with the Jeane Dixon predictions, that came later when I had time to reflect on it.
At any rate, after going through a lifetime of such things in a very short while of four or five decades, I managed to lay worries to rest because I became totally focused on whatever task in life was at hand. A few times my accomplishments made others envious to the point of attempting to hinder me, but basically I have ignored such things. Anyway for the most part when these things happen, I do not realize it until sometimes months or years later, and upon reflection they are then revealed. One thing when I finished that helm watch and was finally relieved, I went below decks to my berthing compartment, sort of in a mind fog because a lot happened in a bit less than five hours, and I had not had time to even think about it. People would come out of side hatches and ask me where I was when all the clipboards were sideways? By then I was 18 and I knew that some might think that I somehow caused this royal mess so did not tell them I was the one steering her. I always figured the Captain who was also acting as Officer of the Deck during things like that, would somehow place a comment in my record but nothing was ever said. They reserved that for things one did wrong, so I made that list a couple of times as well but never had the opportunity to explain anything in their kangaroo-court style shipboard justice system. When I reveal some of the things I went through back then to people today, they often think these things can’t be true, but I usually have all the details and some or enough of the proof to back it all up. Prior to the anchor chain incident, I had been promoted to E-4 and had completed all requirements for E-5, but my immediate E-6 called me in to tell me he was yanking my promotion because my work was not up to par. Let’s see, I had just had a TBI which was never diagnosed nor treated and was in a total mind fog that even prevented me from correlating electrical shocks in my neck to getting hit by the anchor chain, etc. So now instead of being in a quasi supervisory position which would have allowed me to somewhat heal, he was sending me back to full grunt work and the ship’s doctor could only issue light duty chits which hit the first circular file once submitted back to my department. If you were not in a hospital bed, you wee fit for full duty. Eventually I sought help from elected representatives but that only resulted in letter inquiries and more coverups. After we completed our duties in Linebacker II wherein I saw most of my combat, I was later dispatched to a hospital in PI and then back to the states whereupon I got called a baby-killer and got spit on by a group of hippies at San Francisco airport on 7-24-72 late PM, but knew nothing about what that was all about. From there I must have boarded a bus to Treasure Island where I was informed that I would be processed out of the Navy over the next couple days.
Later on when I died the second time in 1981, I got hit in the mouth by a hard softball so hard that it tore my mustache off and I ended up with 26 stitches inside my mouth, along with both my front teeth very loose. I got to watch much of the aftermath, from what I would call a waiting room on a platform about 6-8 feet above the ball field. I saw nearly everyone looking down at an injured person and only when somebody stood up and moved away was I able to see that they were looking at me, or at least my body. After a bit I thought I would explore the room I was in and there was a desk like thing to my left and to its right was the entryway to a very long darkened hallway. Since there was no lights on I decided I was unwelcome to that dark and eerie hallway and wanted to return to the overlook area and to my surprise it was not necessary for me to walk back over there. Only thinking of it caused me to instantaneously move there, interesting thing move by thought. One of my bosses from work did not go over to my body but simply stood off to the side and stared right at me in the air. It struck me he had red eyes but there was no way that anyone should have been able to see my spirit looking over everything. Eventually and again instantaneously and not by choice, I re-entered my body and sat up whereupon I insisted that I be allowed to at least finish pitching that inning. You see to me I had only been out for a minute or two but everybody said that I was out for at least ten minutes and they wanted to call an ambulance instead. I said I could find my way to the clinic and my wife who worked there at the hospital said she would drive me there. The guy at bat was a 6′ 5″ brute who was her boss at the hospital and they said that the ball hit the ground before it hit me, but I could only remember the ball leaving my hand. I have a random blind spot in my eyesight due to the anchor chain incident, but did not know that then. For that short while it was nice not to have any pain and to have a front row seat to watch it all, but afterwards I was eight days in the hospital where I watched my upper lip grow to around the size of a large serving platter. After that I never pitched again nor could I bring myself to if I had the opportunity, and I always regretted the fact that I was not allowed to finish that inning but also understand this circumstances and why.
In between all this, I completed several schools in the Navy and post discharge I graduated as an Automotive Technician in 1973 but decided I could not really become a one-armed mechanic. Thereafter I attended Business College and graduated toward the top of my class. Strange thing was that due to my memory loss which I thought was normal and like everyone, I always had to stay up all night before an exam in order to not forget the info that I needed to know that day. I double-majored in Agri-Business and Business Administration. The few jobs that followed found me also having to stay awake in order to remember important things so they lasted around 3 years each after which I was staying awake sometimes up to five days straight and up to 3 or 4 days as a matter of normalcy. Then later I did some self employment things which worked for short times as well. I ended up in the hospital for what they could not figure out if I had had a mini-stroke or simply extreme exhaustion — they told me they were going to try to save me but were not that confidant. After three weeks in intensive care I was advised to seek other employment. Eventually things added up and after a stint as a full partner in a rather large business attempt, which was put out of business by local organized crime, I ended up filing both corporate and personal bankruptcy, that was the first time. Then came many lean years wherein I had to decide things like whether to spend $10 to renew my Mortgage Brokers license or my Insurance license or go the grocery store and buy bread and milk for our children.
About ten years later we tried another storefront business which did well until the landlord’s older children who were all lawyers, decided they wanted our location for a casino, so after over five years there and finally established, they gave us 30 days to leave. We found another location but by then my health was taking some bad turns and after 15 specialists none of them could figure out what was going on. By then as today, hardly anyone knew anything about Agent Orange TCDD dioxins or what they do to people who were seriously exposed to them. We closed our business in late 99 and put most everything in storage, never again to use most of it. After being bed-ridden for nearly five years, I was able to get up and on the internet for an hour or two per day and researched my medical situation. One natural tending doctor, Dr. Mercola, had already some 15,000 pages of info that included hypothyroidism. I learned more about thyroids and have now forgotten more than most doctors ever are taught about them. So I listed everything I would need and found a doctor who agreed to write up a prescription for the one thing that was not over the counter. That sort of worked and I got back to around 50 percent of what I had been before and little by little over the past 20 years I have gotten to probably around 65 percent. I am allergic to the one thing that works, and that in turn made me allergic to almost everything else. But that is only one of over 20 conditions and injuries I have had to learn to self-treat for. Eventually the VA helped somewhat, but their mode of operendi is such that prior to Obama care, VA only treated officially service-connected things rather than those that are claimed but not official. Mostly they would not even entertain questions about non SC’d things. At that point my wife contracted with USPS as an independent contractor and I helped where I could and that went on for around 15 1/2 years. VA Choice programs allowed me to seek some assistance in the community but then their contractor HealthNet began reneging on paying these providers for fully authorized services which coincided with a second personal/medical bankruptcy several years ago. Now we are retired and last year or a little over, VBA gradually upped my disability from 10% in 1972 to 20% in 1992 to last year bumping up to 40%, 50%, 70% to total and permanent. I had to turn everything over to a law firm in order to insulate myself from all their lies about legitimate things that were denied, but that was worth it to me. I have deep PTSD mostly from the anchor chain thing and simply do not have the patience to deal with all that. Now we are trying to save up to buy a more reliable car as ours is a 1999 and still runs great but the clock is ticking. I also have been somewhat successful in growing my FICO score but loans for cars are still crazy to me. We want to either buy outright or mostly so. There are many other things but by now I am sure you get the idea of why I do not worry about things because mostly I do not have or allow myself the time to waste. People often tell me I look younger than I am and that is likely because I have never allowed aging to catch up to me as yet.
So even though I have had a rather intense life, it seems that a number of conditions and injuries were meant to slow me down and they somewhat have. I was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam during four western pacific cruises in slightly over three years. That resulted in stomach ulcers and GERD, hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis throughout my body, autoimmune disorder peripheral neuropathy, radiculopathy etc., and the anchor chain incident caused permanent moderate to severe sinus damage, perpetual headaches, a random blind spot in my eyesight, and I relive this event every time I go into deep sleep which is also when my short term memory wipes, unpredictable bouts of depression, etc. Yes, we have a large California King bed so I do not do bodily injury during some of my more active dreams. I live a nocturnal lifestyle but try to accommodate nearly all important times. I have been authorized to receive left hip and left shoulder joint replacement and possibly left knee later, and I need neck surgery because C-3,4,5 are all bone on bone and C-7 is in complete spinal stenosis. From getting hit in the head by the anchor chain and then the metal boat rail and then the concrete buoy before dying under water in the ocean, I have something called post-traumatic selective amnesia and repressed memory of portions of that incident. My short to medium memory decides on its own what I will remember, but my long term memory is mostly intact as though things from 50 years ago just happened ten minutes ago. MRI’s have revealed a small part of my brain missing due to concussion but the VA neurologist said that could have happened any time in my life, yeah right, as well as a fractured pelvis that I do not remember having but it likely affected my work as well. I was in a heavy mind fog after this incident. and mostly still am, which was covered up by my department, and eventually I was sent stateside via sealed orders and then discharged at SF/Treasure Island from the military. After many years I decided to at least get my DD-214/215 corrected to include proper ribbons and medals. They found that they needed to add Combat Action Ribbon, Meritorious Unit Citation, and four more Battle Stars to the existing two on my Vietnam Service Medal. They did not correct the number of tours from two to four and the entire ship’s log for 1971, the year I was injured, is either missing or still classified. Historians have broken the US Vietnam Conflict (Undeclared War) into 29 or 30 campaigns. Our ship participated partially or totally in 18 of those engagements over a three year period. Since we were also the Flag Ship of the 7th fleet, we probably saw more action than most Navy ships over there. During the time I was trying to correct my DD-214/215 discharge papers, I located a “log sheet” Memorandum from a place called Oakland Naval Hospital (across the bay from Treasure Island) stating things like “man not here yet” for a month after my discharge so I was on medical hold and supposed to have been sent there instead of being discharged, but nobody told me and I was not allowed to see my sealed orders. By then this facility had been closed in 1996 and imploded in 2011. I found out about that in 2016 and all my medical records pertaining to my injuries were sent there and lost so only recently has the VA decided to do another look at all this and told me they will be doing a C&P exam for memory loss. I found two letters from higher up Navy medical authorities that were mailed on the day before my discharge, instructing me to be sent to Oakland Naval Hospital, but by the time those were received there, I was long gone. Apparently there was mention of the anchor chain incident in a shrink report which VA had in their possession from day one, and also over the years I had submitted copies of things I had just in case they did not. Now a couple months ago, somebody actually took the time to read a few of these things and I am grateful for that. Who knows, they may go retroactive on some of these things but I have always known that the VA operated on geologic time frames so whether that happens yet in my lifetime is always a question.
When I write something, I have to continually go back and review it or I may forget that I already covered a given topic one or more times. When I wrote this all up for VA the incomplete submitted version was 67 pages which was taking me several hours each day to read prior to adding more info. I was up against a deadline so submitted it as is along with around 100 pages of exhibits to back up much of what was included. To top it off many things that have been with me my entire working life, all of a sudden you mention these things and now that I am almost 70 everyone says they are age-related, like osteoarthritis or memory and hearing loss, etc., and of course I know better, but one cannot confuse people with the facts when their mind is already made up. Time will tell and I guess I have long ago turned most of this over to the man upstairs because I do not need to carry around all these old chains which are heavy at times if I allow them to be. Now I consider myself more of a lover than a fighter/warrior but certainly more of a warrior than a worrier. I learned such things as: “This too will pass” and no matter what it is, that is true. I also learned that being put to sleep during surgeries can have serious consequences for anyone with my memory problems, so have purposely put off some surgeries because of that, and have found some Chinese herbs to help me get by for now.
My wife and I both had Covid in December 2019 and due to my hypothyroidism and autoimmune disease I have refrained from getting a vaccine shot, because most who have had serious side effects or even death from the vaccines have done so because they had one or some of he same things that I have. I have talked to others who had this early on and then had it again and the second time is usually very mild and short lived. We self-treated our way through the first time because clinics all said there are lots of viruses going around and to simply go home and wait it out. We were probably the first people to self-quarantine ourselves because it seemed like the right thing to do, so from 12/07/2019 until 02/07/2020 we stayed home. I am much less concerned about getting this again than I would be to carry it around for others. I give blood regularly and they always test it for multiple things including antibodies and such. Of course we all wish this would simply go away but there are far more questions than answers when one digs into it all. Then too there are pig-headed people who know it all and therefore insist we all do what they think is right whether it is or not. We are told to trust the science but the experts portray that they do not understand enough of it to intelligently explain anything to us, or worse change their minds regularly. Time will tell and I do not want to not get the vaccine, if in my mind I know it is safe to do so, but I am not that confident yet. It just seems sometimes that when we finally reach mountain peaks in life, occasionally we run into black swans that dash our every hope, but my mindset is to drudge forward regardless of the unknowns.
I also know that due to the technological revolution we are experiencing worldwide, breakthroughs are happening multiple times per day for things that 20 years ago were thought impossible, so there is always hope if we allow it to proceed. My understanding of science is to question everything until one can prove the equations, or make blatant declarations with proof. I have seen very little to satisfy my questions which range from the beginning of the disease to how to deal with it. Then too there are way too many other things that were going on at the same time that some people felt the need for major smokescreens which would thwart people’s attention away from what was about to happen in the financial world towards a shift of the world’s populations thinking towards something so big that it would actually gulp everyone’s attention away from them. All that aside, yes there is a disease and yes we need to effectively eradicate it. But they are already talking about multiple shots per year, perhaps monthly and there is still no proof that any of them will prevent the disease. Australian scientists long ago found that everyone who gets this disease is apt to develop a mutated version because the nature of Covid19 is to search one’s entire body and then join up with what other viruses are present, thus creating a mutated version every time it is contracted. This can all be scary, but just like the people on board ship who told us to trust them because they knew what they were doing during the anchor chain incident, we soon learned that nobody knew what they were doing — they just did not want to tell the Captain that they were clueless. So three of us were nearly killed and I actually did die, for a short while, and they managed to cover it up. At any rate, it would behoove us to look outside the box on this whole virus thing and perhaps we are going about it all wrong. It is high time they actually learn scientific processes rather than convince everyone they are right. Anyway, that is my two cents and I have not even touched on the religious aspects or why it might be wrong to receive some vaccines that rely on male aborted babies for portions of their stem-cell makeup. Or why the lead doctor has been implicated in the creation of various labs outside the US but with US taxpayers money, one of which possibly was responsible for creating this virus. Then too, why has nobody questioned this or investigated it? There is way too much hanky-panky involved and yet we live in a world full of make believe smokescreens that divert our thinking from things that otherwise might be easily understood. Make believe problems that are created in order to remove various freedoms that our predecessors spent millions of gallons of blood to pay for. If I worry about anything, it is what kind of world we will leave to our children and future generations.