Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Anxiety: A Short History

Anxiety: A Short History

by Allan V. Horwitz

See All Formats & Editions

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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 09/15/2013
For the anxious, life is a roller coaster they want to slow down. Sociologist and historian Horwitz (sociology, Rutgers Univ.; Creating Mental Illness) traces how anxiety has been understood and treated from the time of Hippocrates and Aristotle through Freud to neuroscience and pharmaceutics today. He guides readers through all aspects of this surprisingly large topic: fear, worry, dread; theories, treatments, and social consequences through history; religious, cultural, and scientific aspects of anxiety; and anxiety's various causes, from snakes and spiders to debt and war. Freud moved the concept of anxiety from the sphere of religion (as in the writing of St. Augustine) and philosophy (as in Søren Kierkegaard) to medicine. First claiming that repressed impulses were its cause, he later retracted, stating that it was in fact anxiety that caused repression. More recently, behaviorists have cured some types of the condition with desensitization rather than through analysis. Horwitz shows how pharmaceutical stocks go up as Americans, anxious not to be anxious, press their primary physicians for pills, while psychiatrists obsess about diagnostic terminology in part to suit the demands of insurance companies. VERDICT For observers of the human condition, this work is, despite some overwrought sentences, an enlightening tour of anxiety, set at a sensible pace, with an exceptional scholar and writer leading the way.—E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC
Publishers Weekly
Anxiety is particular among most mental disorders in that it exists both pathologically and colloquially: to be “anxious” can connote a psychological condition, but it can also refer to a more commonly emotional or situational state. Both definitions are dealt with in this broad history of anxiety. Rutgers sociology professor Horwitz largely shies away from modern tendencies toward biological explanation and treatment, instead covering the sociocultural aspects of anxiety’s past, present, and future. He begins in the classical period with Hippocrates and proceeds up to the present. Almost an entire chapter is devoted to the rise of Freud in the 20th century, when the modern definition of anxiety developed. In these respects, the book might not differ from histories of other illnesses. However, Horwitz’s priorities lay less in innovation than in clear, readable organization: each short chapter is punctuated with a concise summary; all of this is wrapped up with a timely conclusion, wherein Horwitz argues for the necessity of balancing neuroscientific advances with the disease’s complex history in creating diagnostic criteria for anxiety. 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. (Nov.)
Spirituality & Practice - Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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.

PsycCRITIQUES - Jennifer J. Esala
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.


Horwitz... provides a historical account of the universal phenomenon of anxiety in this extremely interesting book... In this expansive treatment (for such a small book), Horwitz reminds readers of the importance of distinguishing between normal and pathological anxiety.

Bulletin of the History of Medicine - Edward Shorter
... the definitive overview of the history of anxiety.

Nursing Times - Ibadete Fetahu
Any new students or practitioners to mental health would benefit from this book.

Social History of Medicine - David Herzberg
Allan V. Horwitz's Anxiety: A Short History is a lucid, erudite and brisk intellectual history driven by a clear and persuasive central argument.

Sociology of Health and Illness - Esmee Hanna
This short book achieves its aims, neatly narrating the chronology of anxiety over various contexts. It also offers a good introduction to those wanting to know more about the history of anxiety and should prove to be a useful addition to the sociology of mental health, especially in relation to teaching and the development of scholarship in this important area.

Metapsychology - Lloyd W. Wells
Anxiety is fundamental to the human condition, an important component of who we are. With us for two millennia and more, it continues with us today, sanitized, medicalized, and highly prevalent. This book does a good job of explaining how that has occurred and the continuity of anxiety over time... [ Anxiety] is an excellent book, which I recommend.

Science and Medicine
A highly readable and engaging book in the style of a biography.

Product Details

Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
Johns Hopkins Biographies of Disease
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

What People are Saying About This

Peter Conrad
A wise guide through the historical path of anxiety conceptualizations.

Meet the Author

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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews