Living with Anxiety is a self-therapy book for people living
with anxiety issues. The first three chapters carefully define
anxiety, distinguish it from similar behavioral problems, and
provide a discussion of why drugs aren't the best treatment for
this common mental health issue.
The authors begin the book with this definition: "Anxiety
is an unpleasant state that includes increased biological arousal,
negative feelings, negative thoughts and an inward focus of your
attention." They are clear to distinguish anxiety from depression.
Anxiety deals with psychological and physical arousal while depression
is actually a biological slowing down of activity. It is important
to understand this distinction if you are to benefit from applying
the ideas taught in this book to your own behavior. Carefully
read through the discussion of anxiety versus type A personality
(workaholics) or simple stress reactions to your life situation.
If you are still not clear about whether you suffer from anxiety
or some other mental health condition, take the Burns Anxiety
Inventory found in chapter 2. It is a self-scoring inventory requiring
your response to 33 basic questions about your reactions to certain
situations. Your total score gives you an indication of the amount
of anxiety you are experiencing at the current time.
The next chapters discuss in detail different mental health issues
that can cause anxiety symptoms. These include a generalized anxiety,
panic disorders, agoraphobia problems, and phobias to different
items in the environment, phobias about being in public with other
people, posttraumatic stress disorders, and obsessive-compulsive
problems. Each chapter states whether or not drug treatment is
beneficial for that particular type of anxiety. The chapters always
end with some exercises for the individual to use to help control
the situations discussed in the chapter. The authors also suggest
when support groups or psychological counseling may be beneficial.
I found the chapters on managing anxious feelings, thoughts, and
physical anxiety symptoms excellent. The activities suggested
at the end of the chapters appear to be beneficial in helping
an individual counsel themselves through the problems. These activities
may be even more effective if the individual has a friend who
will help them apply the information presented in the chapter,
assuming the friend has read and thoroughly understands the goal
of the activities.
Two chapters are dedicated to strengthening social and interpersonal
communication skills, including becoming more assertive in presenting
your opinions in a group situation. Frankly, I had the feeling
these chapters belonged in a different book altogether. They seem
out of place to me.
The authors end with a very brief chapter on suicide and anxiety
and suicide. I do have a concern that a suicidal person may not
be able to "self talk" themselves out of their current
feelings. Since these psychologists express a lot of doubt over
the successfulness of today's drug and talk therapy treatment
of mental health problems, I was very relieved to have them recommend
that someone considering suicide seek professional help if available
or even one of the many telephone crisis lines.
I have very mixed reactions to this book. Some people may be motivated
enough to diagnose themselves and follow through with the activities
suggested. In my opinion, a person suffering from severe anxiety
is unlikely to apply the ideas taught in this book successfully.
It leaves me with the feeling that people needing professional
help may not seek it because of the negative statements found
in this book about such help.
I can see the book as very effective when a psychologist and patient
work together to teach the patient how to successfully apply the
exercises to their own behavior. This would allow a professional
the opportunity to recognize signs that the self-therapy wasn't
working and perhaps, to avoid a crisis leading to more serious
consequences. We have too many people in our society telling people
to "just get over" mental problems. I don't believe
we need professional psychologists saying the same thing.
© 2002 Diana Pederson
Diana Pederson lives
in Lansing, Michigan.