Author Andrea Petersen joined a recent episode of "Salon Talks" to discuss her new book "On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety" about her search to understand the roots of a disorder that she knows from the inside — and how to treat it. "One of the hardest things about anxiety is that it can really shrink your world," she explained. "Anxiety is the anticipation of pain. It could be emotional pain; it could be physical pain . . . and it's different from fear."
As Petersen noted, "Anxiety is a normal human emotion. Actually a certain amount of it is a good thing." She added, "It motivates us to study for tests, to prepare for retirement, to go to the doctor if we're not feeling well. It then becomes a disorder when it impairs people's lives . . . when anxiety gets in the way of doing the things you want to do when you want to do them."
The reasons that anxiety strikes certain people and not others are complex. Petersen's research shows that environmental factors, genetics, temperament and other components all play a role. She also acknowledged a gender disparity, which may result from hormonal differences — and environment factors (since males and females are brought up in distinct ways). "Girls are much more likely to be told to be cautious and to be safe. And those messages can promote anxiety," she said. "If you're made to feel that the world is a dangerous place and that you can't cope, that that's something can contribute to anxiety."
Catch more of Petersen's conversation about anxiety on Salon.