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Let’s imagine anxiety as a 100-floor skyscraper with a metaphorical elevator capable of containing the entire world’s population (sorry if you’re claustrophobic or afraid of heights). Each floor of Anxiety Estates represents a different baseline level of anxiety. As the elevator makes its long journey to the top, some low-anxiety folks get off at the 5th floor, slightly more step off onto the 25th floor, but the majority (50%) get off at the 50th floor. Spoiler alert: I am describing a normal distribution for those familiar with Gaussian functions.

Unfortunately for those of us with anxiety disorders, the elevator doesn’t stop at the 50th floor. The exact level of anxiety that characterizes a “disorder” is entirely dependent on the individual experiencing the anxiety. “Normal” anxiety crosses the threshold into a disorder when it causes significant distress and impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Some of us may tolerate the 65th floor of Anxiety Estates while others will be paralyzed and unable to function.

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