Anxiety, an unauthorised biography

Photo by Flickr user dhammza. Click for sourceThe New York Times has an absolutely fantastic article on the psychology and neuroscience of anxiety and how an anxious temperament at birth can ebb and flow during our lifetime.

It’s an in-depth article that really does justice to the topic, looking at extensive research into our anxious states, but also carefully questioning some of the sloppy assumptions of many article where brain activity is described as directly representing mental states.

But having all the earmarks of anxiety in the brain does not always translate into a subjective experience of anxiety. “The brain state does not make it a disorder,” Kagan told me. “The brain state exists, and the statement ‘I’m anxious,’ exists, and the correlation is imperfect.” Two people can experience the same level of anxiety, he said, but one who has interesting work to distract her from the jittery feelings might do fine, while another who has just lost his job spends all day at home fretting and might be quicker to reach a point where the thrum becomes overwhelming. It’s all in the context, the interpretation, the ability to divert your attention from the knot in your gut.

The article is incredibly well written and it tackles a huge range of topics in the understanding of fear and anxiety. Highly recommended.

Link to NYT article ‘Understanding the Anxious Mind’ (via @mocost)

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