What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situations. But in some cases, it becomes excessive and can cause sufferers to dread everyday situations.

This type of steady, all-over anxiety is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Other anxiety-related disorders include panic attacks—severe episodes of anxiety which happen in response to specific triggers—and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is marked by persistent intrusive thoughts or compulsions to carry out specific behaviors (such as hand-washing).

Anxiety so frequently co-occurs with depression that the two are thought to be twin faces of one disorder. Like depression, it strikes twice as many females as males.

Generally, anxiety arises first, often during childhood. Evidence suggests that both biology and environment can contribute to the disorder. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to anxiety; however, this does not make development of the condition inevitable. Early traumatic experiences can also reset the body’s normal fear-processing system so that it is hyper-reactive to stress.

The exaggerated worries and expectations of negative outcomes in unknown situations that typify anxiety are often accompanied by physical symptoms. These include muscle tension, headaches, stomach cramps, and frequent urination. Behavioral therapies, with or without medication to control symptoms, have proved highly effective against anxiety, especially in children.

Recent posts on Anxiety

Dear White People?

Use of group stereotypes should not only be offensive to you when aimed at a group with whom you identify. All bigotry is the same.

How We Create Unnecessary Anxiety To Motivate Ourselves

By Grant H. Brenner M.D. on March 27, 2017 in ExperiMentations
How being dependent on anxiety is holding you back.

Stop Enabling Your Adult Child: Revisited

Helping versus enabling a dependent adult child is often an emotionally charged topic. Here are some guiding principles to help.

Anxiety Is a Part of Human Nature

Is there a right way to be anxious? Kierkegaard thought so.

Trigger Warnings and Mental Health: Where Is the Evidence?

By Rob Whitley, Ph.D. on March 23, 2017 in Talking About Men
Recently, there has been a growing push for the use of "trigger warnings" on college campuses. But are they beneficial for mental health? And can they have unintended consequences?

Lena Dunham's Representations of Mental Illness

More recently viewers have seen a notable shift towards more accurate representations of mental illness. The controversial television series Girls on HBO leads the way.

We Are All Mojo Addicts

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on March 21, 2017 in Ambigamy
We all gravitate toward self-revitalizing signs of hope, and in the process, we generate social and interpersonal congestion.

10 Minutes to More Serenity With This Comforting Ritual

How a 10-minute task can, surprisingly, become a Zen moment.
wikimedia commons

Safe Spaces Can Be Dangerous

By Liz Swan Ph.D. on March 20, 2017 in College Confidential
What's so safe about "safe" spaces? They prevent students from growing and adapting which is, in fact, really scary.

Is Your Self-Esteem Too High to Be Successful?

By Rob Henderson on March 20, 2017 in After Service
Self-esteem can be dangerous. Here is a better option backed by research.

Killing Us Softly

By Billi Gordon Ph.D. on March 20, 2017 in Obesely Speaking
From our brains to our veins - the real problem with politics.

Is Mental Illness the Rule Rather Than the Exception?

We hear all the time that 1 in 5 people struggle with a psychiatric disorder. New research now suggests that we have it backwards.

A Profound Experience With the Toilet

By Reid Wilson Ph.D. on March 19, 2017 in All about Anxiety
In any distressing situation, we have only two choices: Accept or resist. You have to find a way to willingly welcome your uncertainty and distress.

The Effective Crisis Negotiator: Prepare Like a Navy SEAL

By Jeff Thompson Ph.D. on March 19, 2017 in Beyond Words
Learn how crisis professionals handle stressful incidents and how it can help you handle your crises, disputes, and conflicts.

When Meditation Is Not Enough

Strategies for bringing mindfulness into everyday life.

Afraid to Speak up in Meetings? Try These 7 Tips

By Andy Molinsky Ph.D. on March 18, 2017 in Adaptation
Participating in meetings can be hard; these tips can help overcome your fears.

Sometimes Bigotry Is Just Bigotry

Has all the talk about white privilege been effective in weakening the attractiveness of President Donald Trump’s anti-group rhetoric toward some of our fellow Americans? No.
"Lime Butterfly"/giovzaid85/CC BY 2.0

When Is Reimagining the Past a Sign of Emotional Health?

By Barb Cohen on March 17, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
For counterfactual thinking to be functionally beneficial, we need a coherent story of cause and effect that makes us an essential actor in the story.

Living With Uncertainty

By Robert L. Leahy Ph.D. on March 17, 2017 in Anxiety Files
What is the probability that the plane will crash? Almost zero. Or, that you will lose all your money in the market? Almost zero. But then you insist, “Yes, but it could happen!"

Hypochondria

By Roberta Satow Ph.D. on March 17, 2017 in Life After 50
Are hypochondriacs faking? Many doctors get angry at patients with imaginary symptoms because they can be insistent and stubborn in their demand for a cure to their ailment.

Do You Worry?

Worry is an ordinary part of human experience: a protection from danger, a sign that we care, and a struggle to face the inevitable uncertainties of life.

Thinking Away Unwanted Thoughts

Don't bother telling yourself not to worry. It will never work. Instead, do this.

L-Theanine Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety

Are you looking something that is safer than a prescription medication for anxiety? L-theanine may be the answer.

Kava Is an Effective and Safe Treatment of Anxiety

Are you struggling with generalized anxiety and not getting relief from prescription medications? Kava may be the solution you've been looking for.

Successful Imperfection

By Robert L. Leahy Ph.D. on March 15, 2017 in Anxiety Files
Living life involves making mistakes and getting on with things. But many of us get undermined by our fear and intolerance of mistakes.

Why Does Self-Help Fail?

By Grant H. Brenner M.D. on March 15, 2017 in ExperiMentations
Is self-help failing you? If you don't know why, and you do want it to work, learn how to help yourself in ways which succeed.

Here's Your Brain on Trauma

Have you suffered a trauma and wonder why you feel so anxious and out of control? The answers are in your brain. Learn how trauma affects the brain, and how you can take action.

Different Types of Trauma: Small 't' versus Large ‘T’

By Elyssa Barbash Ph.D. on March 13, 2017 in Trauma and Hope
Are you feeling stressed and unable to cope, but don't understand why? There may be good reasons for that.

Help for That Buzz In Your Ear

By Temma Ehrenfeld on March 13, 2017 in Open Gently
Treat your anxiety—or try brain-training exercises—to beat ringing in the ears.