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February 1, 1965

Definition(s) of Anxiety

Author Affiliations

Los Angeles

JAMA. 1965;191(5):420. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03080050066027

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To the Editor:—  The controversy between the clinician Sagebiel and the psychologist Cattell concerning the definition of anxiety (LETTERS, JAMA190:859 [Nov 30] 1964) is of epistemological rather than semantic interest. It demonstrates the epistemological inferiority, even uselessness, of the psychologists' approach. Anxiety and fear belong to so-called general feelings (Gemeingefühle). Fear is an atavistic emotional heritage serving protective purposes against a threatening event, impending danger, or risky performance. This psychological emotion is a cortical function with repercussion on the diencephalic autonomic nervous system. Alteration of respiration, pulse rate, or blood pressure; blushing or pallor; inhibition of salivary secretion; or weeping are witness thereof. Anxiety is fear without extrinsic cause, without a substratum, not fear of something. It is an autonomous feeling aroused by intrinsic cortical processes, conscious or subconscious memories and associations originating from past experiences and life situations. It is a pathological outlet of mental processes involved

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