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I can't find it in my dictionary or on Google. What word do people normally use in place of "anxietizing"? For example, "I find sharks anxietizing." Am I just misspelling it?

  • Not that "being in the dictionary" is not the definition of "being a word". Any newly coined word will not (yet) be in the dictionary. If the new word becomes sufficiently frequently used, it will be entered in dictionaries (they all have their own rules and thresholds for accepting new words). But a word like anxietise obeys the rules of English word formation and phonology. The meaning is reasonably transparent (but it could be defined to mean something other than the obvious). So it is definitely a word. It just isn't one that has been used enough to get into dictionaries. – user184130 Jun 27 '18 at 19:23
  • @JamesRandom Thank you. I find it interesting that English speakers have yet to feel anxiety frequently enough to begin using "anxietizing." I find that amazing. Anxiety as a word has been around since the 16th century and the tendency to simplify language, I thought, would have been around equally long. So I find it surprising that "anxiety-producing" is what we're left with today. It feels like I'm going to have to wait God knows how long for the human race to invent/accept "anxietizing," like waiting for my Jetson's jetpack. How much longer now? – Thom Blair III Jun 27 '18 at 19:36
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    @ThomBlairIII I wouldn't say anxietizing isn't common because English speakers feel anxious less frequently. That word form just feels forced, and has the added disadvantage of having five syllables where "less anxious" has three and "less angst" has two. There are plenty of phrasings that cover the feeling without creating a new word. English already has a lot of words, most of them are already not in common usage. – J. Chris Compton Jun 27 '18 at 20:16
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    @ThomBlairIII People stick to a word they hear, and once there's a word out there then there is no longer a need to invent new words by adding suffixes together. So, "anxiety-inducing" or "gives me anxiety" have become common and will stick around. Plus, anxiety-inducing is faster and easier to say compared to anxietising! (and doesn't have ambiguous spelling, like your new word does). – fabspro Jun 27 '18 at 23:33
  • I can easily see it's a verb derived from "anxiety," but I'm having a hard time working out what it actually means. Specifically, does it refer to anxiety in the speaker, or in someone else? (Do we also need "self-anxietize"?) That lack of clarity might be a good reason why it's not in use... – alephzero Jun 28 '18 at 10:31

11 Answers 11

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As always, the question is, what do you mean by "a word"? Since -ize is a productive verb-forming suffix, you can attach it to anxiety to produce a word that most English speakers would be able to decipher.

As a survey of major dictionaries will show, however, anxietize is not a standard word, and its lack of an OED entry suggests it has never been. To describe something as creating anxiety or for making someone anxious, one would use anxiety-producing, anxiety-inducing, anxiety-generating, anxiety-triggering, or a similar compounds, likewise similar terms like worry, dread, panic, doubt, or unease.

Alternatively, you can use a participle for verbs of inducing concern: I find sharks unnerving, dismaying, concerning, or distressing. Popular in slang hyperbole at the moment is triggering, in reference to trauma triggers.

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    Please note that "triggering", in its original sense, refers to a very serious emotional reaction, and that using the word flippantly may (depending on the listener) give the impression that you are undermining that seriousness. – Gregory J. Puleo Jun 27 '18 at 15:49
  • distressing is a great term because it has the word stress in it, which often causes anxiety. – LeLetter Jun 28 '18 at 14:57
  • Productivity is gradable. And wordness, the state of acceptedness in the lexicon, doesn't happen automatically on a new candidate being invented. ' ... not a standard word' is tautological. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 28 '18 at 19:44
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Yoichi Oishi Jul 6 '18 at 8:08
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Anxietize (and depress1) are reflexive verb forms of anxiety (and depression) coined by Albert Ellis, and used in some medical circles to give the patient the perspective that these are not wholly things which happen to them, immutable, but something over which they have some degree of control or agency, a key tenet of CBT.

They have little to no currency outside of this limited context.

e.g.

This terminology shows that I now depress and anxietize myself — but that I need not do so in the future. It uses verbs and adjectives to describe my (and others') distressing, and avoids the hazards of always using negative diagnostic labels - such as depression and anxiety - that overgeneralize and impply that I am unable to change my thinking, feeling, and behaving.

I noted in the first edition of Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy that people who anxietize, and particularly those who panic, frequently strongly create...


1. Of course the verb to depress long predates this specific reflexive medical usage "to depress oneself" and is widely used.

3

A more appropriate adjective meaning "making anxious" is anxiogenic (with the antonym anxiolytic).

However these terms are only commonly used in scientific/medical contexts rather than in common speech, and almost exclusively reserved for psychoactive substances rather than the subjects of specific phobias; for common usage you are limited to the hyphenated words suggested by @choster.

3

Well... anxieting, kinda exists.

Any noun (or occasionally other parts of speech) in the English language can be "verbed".

Glasser suggests that to be consistent with the notion of total behavior and choice, we need to say "I'm anxieting," or "I'm depressing." To summarize the concept of total behavior, consider the example of an assistant professor waiting to hear about his application for tenure. He is sitting at home (action) "anxieting" (feelings), wishing his chairperson would phone the results ...

Texas Tech Journal of Education (1986)

The term is perhaps not wholly conventional, but native speakers have always been discovering ways to overcome language restrictions, which is why English is so flexible in the first place.

Alternatively, the OP could use any one of the following present participles in their sentence;

alarming, perturbing, upsetting, unnerving, unsettling, disconcerting, worrisome, or simply terrifying.

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    I find that usage by that person to be poor. Also, to have anxiety is not the same as the list of words you list at the bottom of your answer. They are not synonyms for anxiety. Angst is, for instance. – Lambie Jun 27 '18 at 18:33
  • I find the now-fairly-common usage "This door is alarmed" (meaning "this door is fitted with an alarm") amusing - it reminds me of the existentialist elevator in "Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy". Still, existentialism is probably better than anxietizationalism. – alephzero Jun 28 '18 at 10:28
  • @alephzero you're late to the party. All the comments (and there were many) have been deleted. I merely wanted to show that words that do not "exist" in the dictionary may well exist in speech and even in formal publications. I find "anxieting" easier to pronounce than the OP's option, the term works, it may be quite simple but it is used (or coined?) by an esteemed American psychiatrist. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Glasser – Mari-Lou A Jun 28 '18 at 10:40
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Other answers have debated how valid it is to make a verb from anxiety -> to anxietize. But as you probably gathered, while we can recognise that it's been verbified, this is not a standard word in English.

Others have suggested either trying to find a synonym which does have a verb form, or using a compound, the best choice probably being anxiety-inducing.

"I find sharks anxiety-inducing." is not wrong but I still don't think that's what most people would say. It sounds awkward.

The most natural way to say this as an English speaker would be:

"I find sharks make me anxious."

Similarly we would not say "Sunny days are happiness-inducing" but rather "Sunny days make me happy".

In other cases the verbified forms are in common use, so you could say "I find cloudy days depressing".

  • We also don't say "I find sunny days happying". The special cases here is feelings ending in "-ed" (depressed, excited, inspired) which can be verbed, rather than the general case of other feelings (anxious, happy, sad, hungry) which can't – Chronocidal Jun 28 '18 at 8:58
  • @Chronocidal yes indeed (although... I discovered yesterday there is a word happifying in the dictionary which has this meaning, I have never ever seen or heard it used though) – Anentropic Jun 28 '18 at 9:16
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    @Chronocidal we do say "I find sunny days saddening" though. – bdsl Jun 28 '18 at 14:56
  • @bdsl Which means they leave you "saddened", fitting the pattern :P Good catch though :D – Chronocidal Jun 28 '18 at 15:23
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Is “anxietizing” really not a word?

What word do people normally use in place of "anxietizing"?

(Almost) no English speaker would use the word anxietizing.

You have a valid root and a valid suffix, so I suppose it is a valid word.

If you want to use that root, reword the sentence this way:

  • Sharks cause me anxiety.
  • Sharks raise my anxiety.
  • Sharks raise my anxiety level.
  • Sharks raise my level of anxiety.
  • Thank you for stating that outright. Anything can be said, anything can be written. That does not a word make. "Sharks give me anxiety" is the most common, in my view. Though cause is OK too. – Lambie Jun 27 '18 at 18:32
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    "I find sharks make me anxious." also works (from @Anentropic) – J. Chris Compton Jun 27 '18 at 19:33
  • Have you a supporting reference stating that any combination of a valid root and a valid affix must be regarded as being in the lexicon? – Edwin Ashworth Jun 28 '18 at 19:48
  • @EdwinAshworth No, I do not, nor did I seek a reference. I wrote You have a valid root and a valid suffix, so I suppose it is a valid word. The word suppose was intended to convey that it is my opinion. The valid word reference was intended to mean "I'm not saying the word anxietizing was constructed incorrectly, I'm just saying don't use it because no one else does." Hope that helps. – J. Chris Compton Jun 29 '18 at 14:24
  • Opinions are not suitable for 'answers' on ELU. When wordness is in doubt, evidence that a candidate is in a respected dictionary, or (more difficult) evidence that '([a]lmost) no English speaker would use the [candidate] word anxietizing' is required. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 29 '18 at 14:31
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While English lends itself to systematic extension, the invention of words is good form only when there is no existing word capable of carrying the meaning.

The proposed atrocity has several direct synonyms and any number of equivalent phrases. Without consulting a thesaurus, the following words spring to mind:

  • worrisome
  • distressing
  • alarming
  • disconcerting
  • disquieting
  • unsettling
  • dissonant
  • fretful (not the usual interpretation but a possible interpretation)

One could be unimaginative but also very clear with the already mentioned anxiety-inducing.

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The other answers already provide thorough descriptions, but I thought I would add a more casual/informal word that might suit your purpose well:

nerve-racking

or sometimes written as

nerve-wracking

Definition and example sentence from Oxford Living Dictionaries:

causing stress or anxiety.
"his driving test was a nerve-racking ordeal"
  • It's nerve-wracking. Wrack is related to work, wreak, wrought and wreck. I was fascinated to read your reference: this error must be incredibly common if the OED has given up and listed it. Aha! "Living" Dict. – Peter Wone Jun 29 '18 at 4:49
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    It appears that both forms have been used, mostly interchangeably. I had actually never seen the wrack spelling of it, but I can see arguments for both ways. It seems from some cursory research that the rack variety actually came first. Some articles: bbc and writing explained – LAMonday Jun 29 '18 at 14:04
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It's not a word. You're looking for the light verb construction make anxious (or make nervous):

Sharks make me anxious.

Sharks make me nervous.

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The english for that phrase is "I find that sharks make me anxious".

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"I find sharks anxietizing."

Some words describe emotions of the moment, (e.g.: surprise, horror, disgust, delight, boredom, etc.), which sometimes might last longer than a moment, but nevertheless often appear in an instant. Since anxiety describes an abstract psychological state over time, (gradual, not sudden), it'd be incorrect to apply its present-tense verb form to any immediate tangible object. It would be like saying:

The rain is hurricaning.

The verb could be more correctly applied to an object that evokes more long-term emotions or psychological states:

I find the ecological necessity of sharks and other large fierce predators anxietizing.

Some patients may find Havidol anxietizing.

protected by Mitch Jun 28 '18 at 12:51

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