Greetings, readers of Psych Central. Welcome to my new blog: Fearless—Breaking Anxiety Down. I am going to spend a little time today to talk about who I am and what I intend to do via this blog in the coming weeks.
My name is Arash Emamzadeh and I reside in Vancouver, Canada. I attended the University of British Columbia and studied biology and psychology. Though I had no interest in psychology at first, I soon found myself fascinated by it, and eventually got involved in research and went on to graduate work in psychology.
Later I came to the conclusion that my passion lies not only in conducting research, but in other areas such as teaching, and scientific but also creative writing (see my poetry blog).
And I realized that I could even combine several of my passions, for example, by writing pieces informed by science but intended to stimulate and educate a general audience.
Why Fear and Anxiety?
But why a new blog about fear and anxiety, you might wonder. Partly because they are intriguing to me personally, and partly because fear and anxiety permeate many aspects of our lives and are central to our experiences as human beings.
Of course, sometimes the anxiety can be so severe that we like to learn about it only so that we can find a way to reduce it. In fact, a number of us are already diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are those conditions that are associated with the kind of anxiety that can cause great distress and interfere with one’s daily life. The specific diagnostic criteria for each anxiety disorder is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association, and updated periodically.
Anxiety disorders affect many of us. In 2010, there were 272 million people in the world with an anxiety disorder.1
In the US too, anxiety disorders are quite common. Namely, they are more prevalent than any other mental disorder and have a lifetime prevalence of 28.8%.2 Lifetime prevalence refers to the proportion of people who, at some point in their lives, have met the criteria for a particular condition—in this case, an anxiety disorder.
What this means is that on average, in a random group of four people, at least one of them will experience—or already has experienced—anxiety severe enough to meet the clinical criteria for an anxiety disorder.
But this blog is not only about anxiety disorders. It is also about normal fear, anxiety, and worry, about emotions that we have all experienced:
Consider the fear of flying or public speaking; fear of being judged or rejected; consider financial and health worries, school and relationship anxieties, feelings of nervousness before a blind date or job interview….
Plan for the Next Few Weeks
But where to start with a subject as broad as fear and anxiety? With boring dictionary definitions? Classic horror films? Death anxiety? With gargoyles (said to scare away evil spirits)?
Maybe instead I can make entries that answer questions such as: Are we born afraid? Do women experience more fears than men, and if so, why? Where do fears come from? Is fear different from anxiety? What is worry? What are cognitive biases? What is panic disorder? What are the best/latest treatments for anxiety disorders? What are things that we can do here and now, to feel less anxious? Etc.
But for now, I plan to cover the physiology of fear, including the fight-and-flight response, for next week’s entry.
What is the fight-or-flight response? It is that annoying bodily reaction, with rapid breathing, sweaty palms, nausea, with a heart that beats so fast it threatens to jump out of your chest.
And have you ever wondered why some people faint when they are frightened? Could fainting have survival value? I will be discussing these and other aspects of fear physiology, next week.
If next week’s topic, or anxiety-related articles in general, are of interest to you, then I hope to see you again on this blog. Till then.
1. Baxter, A. J., Vos, T., Scott, K. M., Ferrari, A. J., & Whiteford, H. A. (2014). The global burden of anxiety disorders in 2010. Psychological Medicine, 44(11), 2363-2374.
2. Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K. R., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM–IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 593–602.