Etiological and gender perspectives of anxiety disorder development

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Vol: 16, Issue: 1

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Harrington, Erika L.; Danforth, Jeffrey S.; Letterman, Margaret
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
article description
This paper presents a comprehensive, integrative review of research on the biological, environmental, and cognitive etiology of anxiety. Causes of generalized anxiety disorder, specific and social phobias, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are discussed, as is the role of gender in anxiety development. Biological research concerning genetic heritability, neurobiological structure, and neurotransmitter functioning are reviewed. Environmental factors such as aversive events, parental interactions, environmental control, and learning are discussed, followed by research on cognitive distortions, attribution style, attention biases, and catastrophic cognitions. The review finds evidence of an interaction between biological, environmental and cognitive variables, as well as a mediating influence of gender. Research is still needed to determine the processes and interactions by which anxiety develops and the reasons for gender differences in disorder prevalence. The review shows that research and analysis have been inadequate in making connections between each of the biological, environmental, and cognitive factors. Although research has clearly indicated that each of the aforementioned variables influence anxiety disorder development, most studies have examined only one aspect of anxiety etiology, disregarding the impact of other potential causes.