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 invasive 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

Intimate Relationship Dynamics

They worst thing your partner says goes into long-term memory; the worst thing you say does not. Natural selection favored recording injury we suffer more than injury we inflict.

The Psychology of Self-Deception

By Neel Burton M.D. on August 28, 2015 in Hide and Seek
A short, sharp look into some of the most important ego defenses.

Why Are We So Prone to Feeling Crazy?

By Seth Slater M.F.A. on August 27, 2015 in The Dolphin Divide
How our nature nurtures feelings of insanity. If we’re not stressed out and feeling crazy right at this moment, we’ve probably paid a recent visit to that neighborhood – and are likely to return in the very near future. Our own thinking may twist us – but it can also uncrumple us again.

Frosh Week and Dangerous Drinking: What Can Parents Do?

By Michael Ungar Ph.D. on August 27, 2015 in Nurturing Resilience
While we know young people are likely to drink during frosh week, the real danger is that they could be dramatically under-estimating the amount of alcohol they're consuming. Here are some suggestions for parents who want to prevent their kids from developing a drinking problem.

Another Mass Shooting

Yesterday the nation was shocked by another mass murder. How can parents talk with their children about these events? Here are some tips for parents as a guide to help kids deal with exposure to violent events.

The One Thing to Remember to Beat Insomnia

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on August 26, 2015 in Think, Act, Be
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I, is a powerful non-drug treatment. Find out one of the main principles that underlies its effectiveness.

More Thoughts on the Wound with No Name—First Aid

There are rarely any quick fixes when the wounds are deep, especially from early childhood and/or in combination with being highly sensitive. But what might help, right now?

The Culture of Precaution

Would you rather definitely lose ten dollars or a one percent chance of losing 1000 dollars? Perhaps not surprisingly, people would much prefer to lose the 10 dollars, than run a small risk of a large loss. Why?

How To Manage Situations and Emotions of Acute Stress

By Garth Sundem on August 26, 2015 in Brain Trust
The ability to keep stress in a productive “Goldilocks zone” depends less on what you have to deal with and more on how you deal with it. Here's how.

Mathematical Woes

For many youth math can be a fearful and an intimidating subject. Unfortunately, the struggle with math can occur at an early age, and unless it's appropriately addressed the fear can travel well into adulthood.

Psychotherapy as a Learning Experience

Therapy is a learning experience. Perhaps findings from the neuroscience of learning and memory can suggest ways to improve the storage of memories that are formed during a therapy session.

What Good Is Guilt?

When it comes to evaluating guilt and whether it's helping or hurting you, it's the underlying beliefs that matter. Here's how to get to the bottom of it.

Trumping Frustration Is Not the Same as Trumping Fear

By Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A. on August 24, 2015 in Just Listen
Mr. Trump, inflaming people's frustration will "play in Peoria," but what are you going to do about people's fears?

Shy, Sensitive, Introverted…and Narcissistic?

By Linda Esposito LCSW on August 24, 2015 in From Anxiety to Zen
The Shy/Covert Narcissistic personality is overcome with worry, ineffective functioning, unfulfilled expectations, and hypersensitivity to stress.

Anxious America

By Ken Eisold Ph.D. on August 23, 2015 in Hidden Motives
We spend over 2 billion dollars a year on anti-anxiety medications. What are we so anxious about?

Preaching Family Values while Paying for Ashley Madison

What if the people who give us advice on how to live are not the best guides? What if people who need to make some rule a very big deal in order to motivate themselves are the ones invested in doling out prudential advice?

Behavioral Addiction in OCD

By Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. on August 20, 2015 in Science of Choice
Like addiction, both the obsessive thoughts and compulsions can take up an inordinate amount of time, making it impossible to meet the demands of a normal life.

Why Insight Is Not Necessary For Lasting Therapeutic Change

By Clifford N Lazarus Ph.D. on August 20, 2015 in Think Well
More than 50 years of scientific evidence has proven the importance of therapy emphasizing the "hear and now" rather than focusing on the "there and then." Still, many therapist adhere to the old school approaches of analytic and dynamic psychotherapy in the belief that insight is necessary for real and lasting change. This post explains why insight is unnecessary.

After a Suicide Tragedy, Will There Be Copycats?

A recently published study entitled 'One followed by many?--Long-term effects of a celebrity suicide on the number of suicidal acts on the German railway net', found the number of railway suicidal acts, in the following two weeks, more than doubled in Germany.

Ten Steps Out When Stuck in Doubt

By Jeff Bell on August 19, 2015 in Beyond the Doubt
Struggling with doubt? Try making belief. Read on for the four necessary ingredients and a simple recipe for putting them all together.

8 Tips for Coping with the Stress of Trying to Conceive

By Alice Boyes Ph.D. on August 19, 2015 in In Practice
How to stay sane while trying to get pregnant.

Ten Tips For People Who Second-Guess Themselves

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on August 19, 2015 in Ambigamy
"Why do I second guess myself so much?" Oops. There you go again.

Taking, Losing, and Letting Go of Control in Anorexia

By Emily T. Troscianko on August 18, 2015 in A Hunger Artist
Control is central to many experiences of anorexia. How might exploring unpredictability help us uncover its dark sides and weak spots?

What Should I Do With My Life?

By Wendy Lustbader M.S.W. on August 18, 2015 in Life Gets Better
This question can give us heartache, whether we are in our twenties or sixties. Having no idea what to do next hurts, even as it might excite us on some level. Whether graduating from college or retiring from a long career, the road ahead may seem intimidating in its blankness. Freedom is supposed to be so desirable, yet its reality is often heavy with perplexing dilemmas.

Unconscious Memories Hide In the Brain but Can Be Retrieved

By Christopher Bergland on August 17, 2015 in The Athlete's Way
Researchers at Northwestern University have identify a unique brain mechanism used to store and retrieve unconscious memories.

10 Techniques For Overcoming Speaker's Anxiety

By Joe Navarro M.A. on August 17, 2015 in Spycatcher
We have all experienced the nervousness and anxiety of having to speak in public. Here are ten easy ways professional speakers overcome the jitters.

Do You Suffer From Mental Myopia?

When our mental myopia minimizes another human being to just one characteristic (typically negative), we aren’t granting them the same value, dignity, and worth we would want granted to ourselves in the same situation.

What's Wrong with Antianxiety Drugs?

Recognition of the multiplicity of the brain systems that contribute to fear and anxiety disorders is the first step towards the development of better treatments.

Suffer From Social Anxiety? Doing Something For Others Helps

By Douglas LaBier Ph.D. on August 14, 2015 in The New Resilience
Social anxiety diminishes when you serve others in some way. Research finds that doing something that helps another person pulls you out of self-absorption, which is a part of social anxiety.

Help! You're Too Close

By Atalanta Beaumont on August 14, 2015 in Handy Hints for Humans
How to give and get personal space