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Book Review - Living with Anxiety
Living with Anxiety
by Bob Montgomery and Laurel Morris
Fisher Books, 2001
Review by Diana Pederson
Apr 27th 2002

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.