The History of Anxiety

When did the medical world start to understand anxiety disorders? Learn about the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety from ancient to modern times.

Doctors and therapists know a lot about anxiety. Education campaigns have helped the general public understand more about it, too. Many of us know at least the basics of what anxiety is and how to treat it.

But have we always known about it? When did humanity discover the concept of having an “anxiety disorder”? How did people deal with these disorders in the past?

You might be surprised to learn that although anxiety disorders have always been with us in some form, we knew very little about them until the start of the 20th century.

When was anxiety first recognized?

Anxiety disorders have always been part of the human experience. Even as far back as 5,000 BCTrusted Source, descriptions of something that sounds like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appear in ancient Indian writings.

But the study of anxiety really got its start about 2,000 years agoTrusted Source in the Greco-Roman world.

Ancient writers like Hippocrates, Cicero, and Seneca described people who had symptoms that we today recognize as anxiety symptoms, like irrational fears of certain situations or continual worry. They thought these symptoms might be related to disease or problems within the body.


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