What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety, or extreme apprehension and worry, 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

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By Christopher Bergland on November 22, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
Beefing up the executive control of a specific region in the prefrontal cortex may help those at risk for anxiety disorders, according to a pioneering new Duke study.

When Thanksgiving Comes with a Helping of Social Anxiety

By Dawn Kingston Ph.D. on November 21, 2017 in The Pregnant Pause
Holidays can be especially challenging for pregnant women who have social anxiety. Here are seven tips that can help.

Trump’s Age of Anxiety: Worries Pile Up, Health Will Go Down

By Daniel P. Keating Ph.D. on November 21, 2017 in Stressful Lives
If you're feeling especially stressed lately, you aren't alone. National surveys show an unprecedented rise in anxiety. Health consequences are likely but there are options.

Can a 4-Step Self-Help Therapy Technique End Upset Feelings?

Therapists use this technique to help their clients gain insight and feel better. Can it also relieve upset feelings if you use it as a self-help technique?

How to Put a Stop to Catastrophic Thinking

By Toni Bernhard J.D. on November 21, 2017 in Turning Straw Into Gold
Catastrophizing is also called “magnifying.” This is a good way to think of it because it emphasizes how often we magnify unpleasant experiences way out of proportion.
Andrea 787878/wikimedia commons

No Place For Any Feelings

By Elizabeth Young on November 21, 2017 in Adaptations
"I can see you're a good girl, and that you'll work hard," she says, and her affirmation makes me sure that I am and I will, without question.

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By Linda Esposito LCSW on November 21, 2017 in From Anxiety to Zen
Think it's too late to build your self-worth? Think again. Research reveals the connection between confidence, competence and aging.

“Am I the Problem?”: Sexual Harassment Can Drive You Crazy

From Weinstein to Rose: Part 2 of two-part series on the impact of sexual harassment on mental health.

Remorse and Gratitude

As journalist and author Mignon McLaughlin stated, “True remorse is never just regret over consequence; it is regret over motive.”
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Relieving Severe Anxiety in Children

By Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D. on November 20, 2017 in Brain and Behavior
Behavioral therapy should be combined with medication for childhood anxiety.
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Will I Be Good Enough for the Holidays?

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fotolia, used with permission

When This Moment Is Enough

By Allison Carmen on November 20, 2017 in The Gift of Maybe
When you allow this moment to be enough, it doesn’t mean you stop working on what you want your life to be, it just means you are opening your heart to a more joyful life right now

The Truth Shall Set You Free

By Russell Grieger Ph.D. on November 20, 2017 in Happiness on Purpose
The purpose of all psychotherapy is to free people from the ravages of misery. But first, they must think and act truthfully. Find how with this 5-step process to find happiness.

East-West Cultural Differences in Depression

By David Ludden Ph.D. on November 20, 2017 in Talking Apes
The incidence of depressive and anxiety disorders is far lower in Asia than in the West. Different ways of thinking about negative feelings may be the key.

Don't Let Anxiety Ruin Your Day

By Barbara Markway Ph.D. on November 19, 2017 in Shyness Is Nice
Do you feel anxious before you even get out of bed? A few simple strategies can help you cope.
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Relationship Trouble? Go Bold, Not Timid

By Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W. on November 19, 2017 in Fixing Families
When problems flare in your relationship, it's easy to try and lay low, calm the waters. But this is an opportunity to step up, get things on the table, stop going on autopilot.

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6 Things That Make Me Truly Grateful This Thanksgiving

My fears and anxieties have taught me that even if they can't be entirely overcome, they can be faced and sometimes outwitted. For that knowledge, I am grateful.

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Our Entomophobic Culture

By Jeffrey Lockwood Ph.D. on November 17, 2017 in The Infested Mind
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Pure Solitude, Away From Devices, Is Calming: New Research

By Bella DePaulo Ph.D. on November 17, 2017 in Living Single
Four new studies show that pure solitude, away from electronic devices, is calming. They also help explain when time alone is and is not experienced as sad, lonely, or boring.

On Dreams and Artistic Ambition

By Ilana Simons Ph.D. on November 16, 2017 in The Literary Mind
We are most creative when we dream. How do we convert that fluidity to waking life?

Wean Your Kids and Yourself Off Fear

By Jenni Ogden Ph.D. on November 16, 2017 in Trouble in Mind
The obsession of iGen teens with safety is one cause of their unhealthy levels of anxiety and there's something adults can do something about.

The Rise of Cyber-Victimization

By Graham C.L. Davey Ph.D. on November 16, 2017 in Why We Worry
Being bullied is a significant risk factor for subsequent social anxiety but bullying is changing. It’s moving from the schoolyard to the Internet.

Do You Know About The "Missed Approach" Procedure?

By Tom Bunn L.C.S.W. on November 15, 2017 in Conquer Fear Of Flying
It's a standard procedure, but since it isn't used often, if you don't know about it, it could really frighten you.

The Hurricane Brain of The Accidentals

By Michael Friedman Ph.D. on November 15, 2017 in Brick by Brick
The truth is that there are no cures—they’re temporary.

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Are you worried about managing your Type 2 diabetes as the holidays approach? Are you anxious about going to social gatherings? Talking about your concerns and planning can help.

Wild, Fun-loving, and Free

Childhood anxiety is largely learned, not innate. If we can teach our children to be anxious, it means we can teach them not to be anxious.