Unraveling the mysteries of anxiety and its disorders from the perspective of emotion theory

Am Psychol. 2000 Nov;55(11):1247-63. doi: 10.1037//0003-066x.55.11.1247.


The ascendance of emotion theory, recent advances in cognitive science and neuroscience, and increasingly important findings from developmental psychology and learning make possible an integrative account of the nature and etiology of anxiety and its disorders. This model specifies an integrated set of triple vulnerabilities: a generalized biological (heritable) vulnerability, a generalized psychological vulnerability based on early experiences in developing a sense of control over salient events, and a more specific psychological vulnerability in which one learns to focus anxiety on specific objects or situations. The author recounts the development of anxiety and related disorders based on these triple vulnerabilities and discusses implications for the classification of emotional disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / genetics
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Association Learning
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Risk Factors