Normal and Abnormal Anxiety in the Age of DSM-5 and ICD-11

Dan J. Stein, Randolph Nesse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Despite the effort on DSM-5 and ICD-11, few appear satisfied with these classification systems. We suggest that the core reason for dissatisfaction is expecting too much from them; they do not provide discrete categories that map to specific causes of disease, they describe clinical syndromes intended to guide treatment choices. Here we review work on anxiety and anxiety disorders to argue that while clinicians draw a pragmatic distinction between normal and abnormal emotions based on considerations such as severity and duration, understanding the evolutionary origins and utility of the emotions, including the adaptive value of adverse emotions, is key for formulating comprehensive assessments of an individual patients symptoms and for providing a conceptual foundation for pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, and public health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-229
Number of pages7
JournalEmotion Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 11 2015


  • anxiety
  • anxiety disorders
  • emotion
  • evolutionary theory
  • psychiatric classification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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