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Living with Anxiety: Understanding the role and impact of anxiety in our lives

Anxiety is a familiar emotion because it is part of everyone’s experience. Its natural function is to alert us to potential threats, allowing us to evaluate and respond to them in appropriate ways. This heightened state of readiness can also help people perform better and stimulate creative impulses.
Anxiety is often regarded as an artefact of modern societies, one that is increasingly represented in visual arts, music, literature and social media.

For some people anxiety triggers inappropriate or disproportionate responses to perceived threats, leading to persistent and intrusive symptoms associated with anxiety disorders, such as panic, phobias and obsessive behaviours, which often have a debilitating effect on their lives. Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health problems in the UK and elsewhere, yet it is still under-reported, under-diagnosed and undertreated.

This report explores the intersection between popular perceptions of anxiety, the experience of anxiety in people’s everyday lives and the impact of anxiety disorders. The experience of anxiety often involves interconnected symptoms and disorders. It is estimated that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, while one in six experience a neurotic disorder such as anxiety or depression. Anxiety disorders are also estimated to affect 3.3% of children and young adults in the UK.