On Anxiety Anxiety is the

On Anxiety

Anxiety is the inactivity proceeding from disorder. Anxiety destroys ends, because when an person suffering from anxiety looks into the future he sees no attainable good. But whatever destroys an end must destroy action, for all actions are for some end. The modern psychiatric term for anxiety is “depression”.

Anxiety is, like all mental disorders, irrational. The one who suffers from it cannot “understand” it any more than the one who does not suffer from it. There is, in the last analysis, nothing to understand. Anxiety doesn’t “make sense” to anyone. If we don’t have it, we simply assume those who have it are weak and effeminate (and we are in a certain sense right). If we have anxiety, it is of no use to tell us that what we are doing is irrational- because our very problem is that we have embraced the irrational. It is of no use to tell the anxious person “to do something”- his very problem is that he has crippled his power to act.


  1. Innocent said,

    April 18, 2010 at 8:57 pm


    I’m a Catholic and a regular reader of your blog. I immensely enjoy reading your writings . Sorry about commenting on this so late, but I had some free time today and was going through your old archives, and that’s how I found this post.

    Regarding the subject of this post, what is the next step? How does a person tear himself out of his own embrace of the irrational and recover his power to act?

  2. April 19, 2010 at 5:41 am

    The most effective advice I ever got was to make it a goal every day to do whatever you can (on thing, two things, one attempt at a thing…) to make another person pleased or happy, or at the bare minimum, to do something for someone else, no matter how slight.

    It might also help Catholic intellectuals to meditate on how we cannot love without joy, and so absence of joy shows some measure of absence of love. This dovetails with the advice given above, since love is most properly wishing good to another.

  3. AT said,

    April 20, 2010 at 1:40 am

    According to Pieper love has two aspects – the desire and possession. If there is the desire, but not possession, there is no joy but rather “gloom, despair, and agony on me”

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