Why study anxiety?

Anxiety as a normal, adaptive response

A woman experiencing anxiety in public

Anxiety is a normal response that is necessary to our survival. Anxiety orients us to danger and prepares our bodies to either challenge or escape it. Anxiety can also motivate us to take action, such as when we realize we have an important deadline, and it can give us a bit of a thrill, such as when we ride a roller coaster or play a fast-paced competitive game. Our world would be more dangerous if we were unable to become anxious.

When does anxiety become a problem?

Anxiety becomes a problem, though, when it becomes the norm, rather than the exception, and/or when our efforts to manage it (e.g., by avoidance, use of alcohol or drugs, reliance on rigid routines) starts to interfere with our ability to conduct our family, work, and social obligations.

How common are anxiety problems?

An elderly man experiencing anxiety

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems people have. In fact, the Canadian Psychiatric Association reports that within the past year about 18% of Canadians have had an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are associated with a high rate of work absenteeism. In the USA, the total costs of anxiety disorders to the economy have been estimated at 42.2-46.6 million dollars anually.

Anxiety Studies at the University of Waterloo

A person with anxiety covering their mouth with their hands

Anxiety Studies at the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Mental Health Research and Treatment seeks to understand how anxiety problems develop and why they persist. By understanding how they develop, we can begin building prevention programs. By understanding how they persist, we can develop more effective treatment programs.