Brave New Brain: Conquering Mental Illness in the Era of the Genome

By Nancy C. Andreasen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
ANXIETY DISORDERS
The Stress Regulator
Goes Wild

The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! —William Wordsworth “The World Is Too Much with Us”

I 'll never get caught up. I need a break! I feel so overwhelmed. I just can't cope with it all. I need a chance to kick back, but I'll never find the time. I'm so stressed out!

Those are the refrains of the twenty-first century.

As we look back to the world of one hundred years ago, we see a time of innocence and simplicity that we view with nostalgia. Traveling by horse and buggy and communicating by written letters has a quaint appeal.Would we trade what we have now for what we had then? Maybe yes, or maybe no, depending on how much we value “modern conveniences” in comparison with the complexity, confusion, and pressures of modern life. But anyway we don't have a choice.The twenty-first century has already happened.We can't turn back the clock.

It is a strange paradox that we have more and more things to make our lives easier, and yet the daily routine seems to be getting harder and harder.We have lots of labor-saving devices—clothes washers, dishwashers, fancy electric or gas stoves, cuisinarts, vacuum sweepers, coffeemakers, juicers—an endless array of household appliances.We have fast food, delis with great take-outs, pizza delivery. We have telephones in our homes and cell phones in our cars so we can stay in constant contact, and some of us even have pagers as well. We have cars (and often multiple cars), airplanes, and subways. We have television, the Internet, CDs, DVDs, and Walkmans. We have computers—on our desks, in our briefcases, and in our hands.

Quite simply, we have a lot. We may have more, and gotten it faster, than our human brains were designed to deal with. Consequently, many of us feel anxious and out of control. Some of us have such severe anxiety that we are sometimes disabled by it.We have an anxiety disorder.

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