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, 208 pages
September 2013



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A Short History

More people today report feeling anxious than ever before—even while living in relatively safe and prosperous modern societies. Almost one in five people experiences an anxiety disorder each year, and more than a quarter of the population admits to an anxiety condition at some point in their lives. Here Allan V. Horwitz, a sociologist of mental illness and mental health, narrates how this condition has been experienced, understood, and treated through the ages—from Hippocrates, through Freud, to today.

Anxiety is rooted in an ancient part of the brain, and our ability to be anxious is inherited from species far more ancient than humans. Anxiety is often adaptive: it enables us to respond to threats. But when normal fear yields to what psychiatry categorizes as anxiety disorders, it becomes maladaptive. As Horwitz explores the history and multiple identities of anxiety—melancholia, nerves, neuroses, phobias, and so on—it becomes clear that every age has had its own anxieties and that culture plays a role in shaping how anxiety is expressed.

Allan V. Horwitz is a professor of sociology in the Department of Sociology and Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research at Rutgers University. He is author of Creating Mental Illness.

"A wise guide through the historical path of anxiety conceptualizations."

"An enlightening tour of anxiety, set at a sensible pace, with an exceptional scholar and writer leading the way."

"What is fascinating about this book is less the facts it presents than its ambiguities: anxiety will always force us to question the lines between the normal and the disordered, nervousness and depression, fears and pathologies."

"Horwitz gives us some history and some insights to allay our fears about anxiety. And in helping us to understand anxiety, he opens new doors to coping with it as a chronic condition."

"Horwitz provides and ambitious book about anxiety with impressive breadth and depth in a very readable 161 pages... As a sociologist, I would incorporate Anxiety: A Short History into undergraduate or graduate courses on health and illness, mental health, or emotion. This book would also be quite valuable in a wide range of psychology, history, and other social science courses. And, as it is a very accessible yet intellectual book, a savvy reader with an interest in anxiety would enjoy it tremendously."

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