NPR

What Is It Like To Suffer From An Anxiety Disorder?

Empathy for people diagnosed with an anxiety disorder can come about by reading first-person accounts and by knowing the facts from science, says anthropologist Barbara J. King.
About 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Source: kieferpix

About 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. That's a staggering figure.

In her book On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety, published in May, Andrea Petersen, a health reporter at The Wall Street Journal, writes in vivid, memorable detail about what it's like to experience acute anxiety.

Petersen recounts a time as a college student in 1989 when she was one day seized by a terrible set of physical symptoms. Her heart rate zoomed, her breathing went shallow and her vision dimmed. None of it stopped when she got to her home on campus: "I can feel the loud, frantic presence of every organ — liver, intestines, spleen," she wrote.

After nearly a year of debilitating symptoms, Petersen was diagnosed with anxiety — a number of varieties,

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