In The Anatomy of Anxiety (Harper Wave, Mar.), psychiatrist Vora examines the causes of anxiety.

You take a holistic, whole-body approach to dealing with anxiety. How does that differ from traditional psychiatry?

I don’t gatekeep. If somebody says, “I have a subjective experience of anxiety,” to me it’s like, okay, our diagnostic process is complete. In my book they’re struggling with anxiety, whether or not they meet the criteria in the DSM. Anxiety is a symptom, a communication from the body saying, “Something is not right here—in your life, in your work, community, or the world. Please slow down and pay attention.” My classification system is more about differentiating between true anxiety and false anxiety. False anxiety is the preventable, physical anxiety that is usually caused by a stress response in the body that in turn is caused by seemingly innocuous, benign aspects of modern life. What remains underneath that is our true anxiety, and that’s not something we should medicate away. It’s our inner compass, our true north.

You write that anxiety among those age 18 to 25 rose 84% in the last 10 years. What do you think is behind this jump?

Technology has influenced students’ mental health. Even something as simple as one’s relation to one’s phone works on many levels to increase anxiety. One part of that is social media, “compare and despair,” and fear of missing out. There’s even the effect technology has on our sleep quality. The phone, because it has blue spectrum light emitted on its screen, disrupts our circadian rhythms by suppressing our melatonin secretion so we’re not getting tired at the right time, not falling asleep or sleeping deeply, and then we go through our days feeling anxious.

There is still a stigma around mental health diagnoses. How can that be changed?

There’s a bit of a silver lining to the fact that the pandemic has made mental health struggles so common. Whether it’s people who are qualifying for a diagnosis or just struggling on a more subclinical level, it’s become so universal that it’s helped with the stigma. More people have come to realize that mental issues aren’t a personal failing but a normal human response to a set of circumstances. As we decrease the stigma and people ask for what they need, we need to be there, ready to catch them and help them effectively.