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Anxiety (Randolph Nesse)


Anxiety disorders; Evolutionary psychiatry; Threat detection systems


From an evolutionary perspective, anxiety can be considered as a psychological hazard-detection system. In uncertain environments, the costs of responding to false cues of danger are often miniscule as compared to those resulting from undetected threats. Therefore, the anxiety response has evolved a bias toward false alarms under conditions of uncertainty. We discuss general and specific types of anxiety responses, underlining how the nature of these are often determined by the particular types of threats in the environment.


Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric disorders, with the global point prevalence estimated at 7.3% and lifetime prevalence reported as high as 33% in some countries (Baxter et al. 2013; Bandelow and Michaelis 2015). They refer to a series of DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) recognized mental disorders such as...

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Correspondence to Angarika Deb .

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Deb, A., Chaudhary, N. (2020). Anxiety (Randolph Nesse). In: Shackelford, T., Weekes-Shackelford, V. (eds) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer, Cham.

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