Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to launch Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.

Dr. Anne Marie Albano, director of Columbia University's Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders, says that anxiety is rooted in our biology. We know it's a product of our biological evolution because worry and anxiety produce in us a fight-or-flight response.

The 21st century has created conditions that make is easy for us to worry. But our brain has developed coping mechanisms to reduce anxiety when it arises. 

The brain responds to extreme anxiety by fighting, fleeing, or freezing. Or in milder cases, our rational side can sustain us through temporary periods of unease.


Dr. Albano points out that without worry and fear, we as a species wouldn't have been as skillful at overcoming surmountable obstacles and staying clear of ones that threaten life and limb.

Anxiety is typically a helpful evolutionary tool, but it can sometimes become a pathology. 

When this occurs, Albano says traditional tools like cognitive behavioral therapy can be augmented with technology. Watch as she explains how digital tools could be brought to bear on disorders of the mind in ways that were previously unimaginable.