L. Kevin Chapman Ph.D.

The Color of Anxiety


Why American Culture Is Plagued by Anxiety—Two Good Reasons

The Joneses and need for achievement facilitate our anxiety.

Posted Jan 29, 2012

Anxiety disorders are among the most pervasive of all psychiatric disorders listed in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and are the most prevalent mental disorders in the United States. Issakidis and colleagues (2004) estimated that the cost of care for anxious patients was $400 million. Similarly, Greenberg and colleagues (1999) estimated that the annual societal costs of anxiety disorders exceed $42 billion dollars. Aside from the obvious genetic predisposition required to develop a full-blown anxiety disorder (see previous post on family anxiety, such as "my momma taught me how to fear"), we also know that there are a host of environmental factors that are critical for the process of anxiety, which we all experience, to develop into a disorder of anxiety. Although the process of anxiety is undoubtedly universal and occurs in all cultures, diagnosable anxiety appears to affect Western society, in particular us Americans, more than other cultures. This implies that there is either (a) something completely wrong with how we conceptualize anxiety or (b) that there are factors that are characteristic of Western culture that are largely absent/not as pervasive in non-Western cultures. Science has clearly supported the latter view and we will now examine potential culprits as to why we are so bound up with anxiety disorders in our society.

"Keeping Up With the Joneses" or the Normalcy Bias


$17 is not keeping up with the Joneses

Achievement Motivation

Adam Morrison appears to have had high achievement motivation

High achievement motivation no doubt


(DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994)

(Nietzel, Speltz, McCauley, & Bernstein, 1998)