The Age of Anxiety

60 minutes • Documentary • Produced in association with: CBC • Production year: 2012

Anxiety. It’s being called the disease of the 21st century. Everybody is either afflicted - or knows someone who is. According to the World Health Organization, disorders related to dread are the most prevalent mental illness on the globe at the moment.

Some of us shriek at spiders, others have panic attacks that flare up out of nowhere and mimic the symptoms of heart failure, still others worry excessively about everything and nothing – violent crime, cancer, black bears, tornadoes: fear is a condition in search of a cause.

Is anxiety a disease of modernity? Or is our highly competitive and material culture itself undermining our nerves? The Age of Anxiety examines what anxiety is, and how and why it is being re-defined by medical and pharmaceutical industries.

In 2013, a new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – the psychiatrist’s treatment “bible” – will be released with revised definitions of anxiety crafted by researchers – often with ties to drug companies. As the DSM expands the definitions of anxiety, more and more people will meet the threshold of an anxiety disorder. Pharmaceutical companies have a great deal at stake as more patients will look to pills for treatment.

The Age of Anxiety investigates the role that pharmaceutical companies, and even the psychiatric profession, play in this phenomenon. Is our anxiety fueling an industry that in turn is profiting from and exploiting our dread in a vicious and self-perpetuating cycle?

Written and Directed by: Scott Harper
Producer: Ric Esther Bienstock
Executive Producer: Simcha Jacobovici

Award Highlights:

  • Banff Rockie Award for Best Social and Humanitarian Program
  • Silver Screen Award, US International Film and Video Festival
  • Nomination, Golden Sheaf Awards, Documentary Science/Medicine/Technology, Yorkton Film Festival