How Anxiety Is Affected By Evolution

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Anxiety may seem like a modern epidemic, but it's actually got roots in ancient history. While it can feel like a bothersome companion to 21st-century living conditions, anxiety is a feeling that's been necessary to humans basically as long as the species has been around. Anxiety and evolution are inextricably linked, and understanding this might help you feel some relief.

Anxiety, at it's most basic, is a survival instinct. “Although often spoken about with a negative connotation, anxiety has been a key feeling to the survival of our species," licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) Jennifer Behnke, Clinical Director at New Perspectives, tells Bustle. "Throughout the course of evolution, humans have vacillated between feelings of safety and insecurity based on the circumstances with which they are presented." Our worries are compounded by the fact that the world around us has changed while our brain, for the most part, hasn't.

"The human brain has remained relatively unchanged for the past 200,000 years," Neeraj Gandotra, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Delphi Behavioral Health Group, tells Bustle. "But society has evolved tremendously from [previous] times. We have shifted from a society of immediate response to one of delayed responses. The premise of this claim is that up until about 500 years ago people were relatively isolated from each other, living in small groups and or communities, within which individuals decisions would have an immediate return or impact." These delayed responses and social conditions, however, might be making our anxiety worse.

Here are eight ways anxiety is affected by evolution, according to experts.