Read My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel Online


A riveting, revelatory, and moving account of the author’s struggles with anxiety, and of the history of efforts by scientists, philosophers, and writers to understand the condition   As recently as thirty-five years ago, anxiety did not exist as a diagnostic category. Today, it is the most common form of officially classified mental illness. Scott Stossel gracefully guideA riveting, revelatory, and moving account of the author’s struggles with anxiety, and of the history of efforts by scientists, philosophers, and writers to understand the condition   As recently as thirty-five years ago, anxiety did not exist as a diagnostic category. Today, it is the most common form of officially classified mental illness. Scott Stossel gracefully guides us across the terrain of an affliction that is pervasive yet too often misunderstood. Drawing on his own long-standing battle with anxiety, Stossel presents an astonishing history, at once intimate and authoritative, of the efforts to understand the condition from medical, cultural, philosophical, and experiential perspectives. He ranges from the earliest medical reports of Galen and Hippocrates, through later observations by Robert Burton and Søren Kierkegaard, to the investigations by great nineteenth-century scientists, such as Charles Darwin, William James, and Sigmund Freud, as they began to explore its sources and causes, to the latest research by neuroscientists and geneticists. Stossel reports on famous individuals who struggled with anxiety, as well as on the afflicted generations of his own family. His portrait of anxiety reveals not only the emotion’s myriad manifestations and the anguish anxiety produces but also the countless psychotherapies, medications, and other (often outlandish) treatments that have been developed to counteract it. Stossel vividly depicts anxiety’s human toll—its crippling impact, its devastating power to paralyze—while at the same time exploring how those who suffer from it find ways to manage and control it. My Age of Anxiety is learned and empathetic, humorous and inspirational, offering the reader great insight into the biological, cultural, and environmental factors that contribute to the affliction....

Title : My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind
Author :
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ISBN : 9780307269874
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind Reviews

  • Will Byrnes
    2019-02-04 00:31

    Scott Stossel has a problem, anxiety. Big-time. Had it all his life. Think decades of therapy of the talk and chemical varieties. But, he has also had a successful career as a journalist, and is currently the editor of the Atlantic magazine. Anxiety, when it’s not debilitating, can bring with it certain gifts: a heightened awareness of your environment; more sensitive social antennae; a general prudence about risk-taking; a spur toward achievement. The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard believed that the greater the anxiety, the greater the opportunity for growth. I think there’s definitely something to that—though when my anxiety is at its worst I’d trade away the opportunity for growth in exchange for the anxiety dissipating. (from the Bookpage Interview) Just what is anxiety? What causes it? What are its effects on individuals and society? How has it been viewed historically? What might be done about it? Stossel sets out to look at these and other questions. The wrinkle here is that he uses his personal lifelong battle with anxiety as a lens through which to examine the various understandings that have been put forth about this condition and the treatments that have been tried over time. The historical and analytical elements are fascinating reading, but relating the information to his personal struggle makes Stossel’s a very human approach.The author If getting definitive answers to questions is important to you, and not getting such answers makes you uncomfortable, anxious even, you probably should pass on reading My Age of Anxiety. If, however, you enjoy the mental stimulation of seeing the history of how medical science and society at large has viewed what we, today, call “anxiety”, then this significant work should offer you the palliation you require. So, what is anxiety? Stossel’s response reminded me of Tevye’s, in Fiddler on the Roof, to the question of why the Jewish people maintain certain traditions. “I’ll tell you. I don’t know. But it’s a tradition.” Stossel does not break out into song, but offers a comparable explanation, at least to begin.If Freud himself, anxiety’s patron saint, couldn’t define the concept, how am I supposed to?Even contemporary investigations with the highest of tech have not been able to pin it down definitively. There are even different schools of thought over where the primary cause of anxiety lies. Is it in the electromagnetic functioning of the brain, or in the swath of chemicals that also make up our biology. Charmingly, these two camps are referred to as “Sparks” and “Soups.”Is anxiety genetically determined? There really is a thing that researchers call the Woody Allen gene.From Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About SexAnxiety has offered fodder for cinematic investigation, both serious and satirical, an area that did not receive much attention here. But one could be forgiven for believing that Hollywood product seems to exist, in large measure, in order to instill fear in the population. “Be afraid. Be very afraid.“ The release of Jaws certainly gave many an unwarranted fear of being slurped down by a mega-fishy. There is both the Hitchcockian treatment of acrophobia and Mel Brooks’ somewhat lighter take, depending on whether you prefer your anxiety high or low. And of course newspapers do all they can to flog fear as a means of pushing product. There are enough cop, medical, serial killer and zombie programs on the tube to provide plenty of fodder for nurturing our nervousness. Maybe it is the minority of us who are immune to this constant barrage of market-driven promotion of paranoia. Is it any wonder people are so afraid of so many things?Both images found on WikimediaDo drugs and the ad campaigns of big pharma create more anxiety? Stossel looks into this possibility. Despite the real benefits of some of the products made by large pharmaceutical companies, maybe big pharma is something we shouldbe frightened of.Lest one think Stossel has written a completely dry, scientific, or at least reportorial investigation, you should know that in talking about one of his primary personal miseries, emetophobia, or fear of vomiting, he does seem to take on a bit of a Mary Roach persona while describing some very painful and embarrassing personal experiences. My scatologically-inclined inner twelve-year-old was giddy at times. An out of body experienceWhen Stossel writes of shyness and stage fright, I was whisked back to my early youth, kindergarten or first grade. A school performance. I stood at center stage and recited, “Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater…” I got through the words, but by the time I walked off stage, my trousers had acquired considerable extra moisture. It got better. I had battles with anxiety over the years as an adult as well. Not nearly to the degree that Stossel did. There was a time when I was so burdened with anxiety that my armpits would become viciously inflamed. Not exactly something that might land one in a hospital, for sure. But pain-enforced arms akimbo is not a normal way to present oneself to the world this side of a workout vid. It jars when one is in a suit and tie. It does not matter what caused this somatization. No one turned me into a newt. It did get better. This pales before the travails endured by the author, nearly bolting from his own wedding out of terror that he would boot his lunch, throwing sports matches just to get off the court and stop worrying that he might toss his cookies in public. His anxieties did not make for a happy adolescence in the already terrifying world of dating. (There is plenty more. Read the book to find out just how fortunate you really are.) But I do understand at least a bit, on a very personal level, how anxiety can be physically debilitating. So the book held definite appeal. I imagine that many of us have suffered from anxiety of one sort or another, in varying intensities. It can’t hurt to learn a bit more about where this particular form (or more properly, range of forms) of misery originates.One of the treatments Stossel looks at (and experienced himself) is a thing called exposure therapy. Basically one must confront the thing one fears most over and over until one internalizes the fact that the thing one fears will not do the damage one imagines. It is Mary Roach territory again when he writes of his own exposure therapy treatment, and its effect on those treating him. I can imagine, however that this might not be a particularly helpful approach were one’s fear something like, say, emasculation, or being hit by a car. (or maybe such approaches might be - see Gina's comment #33)He writes of the fascinating connection between the brain and the stomach. Those who suffer from anxiety also have issues with control-freakishness. It was news to learn that there is even a standardized scale for measuring this. That it is called Rotter’s Locus of Control Scale does not give one great confidence in the intent of its designer.There is a wonderful section on blushing. Those of us who are always on the lookout for Darwinian understandings of human behavior will definitely perk up at this. And speaking of Darwin, his is one of many household names Stossel cites as prolonged and acute anxiety sufferers. There is also an enlightening passage on how we get the word panic from the Greek god Pan. You will learn a bunch of nifty new words, well, probably new to you. I know a lot were new to me. Fox News troll John Stossel is Scott’s uncle, so it is clear that there is definitely something sinister swimming about in the family gene pool. At least that particular strain does not seem to have afflicted Scott. His younger sister, Sage, an artist, not only suffers considerably from anxiety, she also just published in December a book that deals with it, Starling. Thanksgiving must be interesting at Stossel family gatherings.I have one particular gripe about the book and it has to do with physical format. The volume I read was an ARE, so formatting may be different in the final, hard cover edition. But in the volume I read, the page count comes in at 337. No big whoop, even if it is a dense read, and it can be. But the sheer volume of footnotes at the bottom of pages is such that it felt much, much longer. (Maybe call them feetnotes?) There are pages that consist of three lines of actual primary text and what seemed vast, unending streams of subsidiary material in print that seemed to call for an electron microscope. I became almost phobic about turning the page. God knows how much more footnote was lurking there, determined to triple the time it would normally take me to completely read a page. And it should be pretty clear that one of my personal tics is a need to read all the footnotes. And they are definitely worth reading. What I wish though, is that the author had found a way to incorporate that very interesting material into the text of the book itself, at a human-friendly font-size, and let us know up front how long the book really is. It felt like a bit of a cheat to me, stuffing so much material in through that particular back door. If it is really a five or six hundred page book, fine, I’m a big boy. I can handle it. But don’t tell me it’s 337, then cram in another 200 pps of material. Grrrrr. That said, if you do not share my footnote-reading compulsion, it will be a much quicker read for you, but you will miss out on a lot of fascinating stuff. So maybe the solution here is to just tell yourself that the book is maybe 50% longer than the page number indicates and adjust your expectations accordingly. It took a lot of work and a lot of guts for Stossel to expose his personal struggles to public view. Reading My Age of Anxiety may not do anything to remove your particular fears, phobias, neuroses or anxieties, but it may at least offer some comfort from the knowledge that one’s difficulty is unlikely to be unique, that anxiety, like death, taxes, corruption and bloody-minded stupidity has ever been with us, that one suffers in the company of some of the greatest minds humanity has ever produced, that there is likely some relief to be had chemically, and that there can be real personal and social benefit from having at least some anxiety. Unless your fears have to do with reading very informative looks at widespread human problems, works in which the reportage incorporates the personal to illuminate the universal, you might want to risk taking a peek at My Age of Anxiety. There is nothing to be afraid of. =============================EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pagesNY Times article about Scott and sister Sage publishing books at the same time, about the same subject, although very differentlyBookpage interviewThis was named one of Oprah’s 17 books to pick up in JanuaryStossel on Colbert, a fun interview.August 2, 2017 - NY Times - My $1,000 Anxiety Attack - by JoAnna NovakIn case you missed the link in the review, here's Mel singing High Anxiety

  • Bruce
    2019-02-17 01:58

    This is perhaps the best book on anxiety I've ever read. For one, Stossel suffers from anxiety (in many forms) and has done so for most of his life, so he knows first hand what it is like to have one or more anxiety disorders. Further, thanks to mastery of an investigative reporter skill set, he researched the dickens out of anxiety, from its potential neurological, social, environmental, ad infinitum causes and summarizes these causes in a very readable and understandable way. He also talks about the pharmaceuticals used in treating anxiety (and he's been on a bunch of different meds), the side effects, other forms of treatment, and so on. He also talks about the anxiety experiences of several other people, not just himself, and I found much of this to be utterly fascinating. For example, I had never known that Charles Darwin was practically incapacitated with anxiety (a few very serious anxieties) ... it amazes me that he was able to accomplish as much as he did.I have a much, much better understanding of anxiety after reading this book. It is not at all something that equates with depression, although one can have depression and anxiety at the same time.

  • Julie Christine
    2019-02-20 04:44

    I heard Scott Stossel interviewed on WHYY's Fresh Air with Terry Gross in early January (here, have a listen: Terry Gross Interviews Scott Stossel and I immediately put My Age of Anxiety on reserve at the library. This calm, articulate, engaging writer touched my heart. So much so that I had an anxiety attack while walking and listening to the Fresh Air podcast. Reading this book led me to the beginning of a few more. I had to set the book aside, get out of bed on a few occasions, and work my head around my body to halt the descent into full-blown, heart-screaming, throat-closing panic. Great. Now I can add to the litany of triggers that just READING about anxiety makes me terribly anxious. But it also really pissed me off. And anger is good. I like being angry. I don't like being anxious. It's hard, but not impossible, for me to review this remarkable memoir separate from the kaleidoscope of my own experiences with depression and anxiety. Forgive me if my first reaction is, "Thank GOD I'm not Scott Stossel. I LOVE CHEESE!!!" I found much to ease my mind (e.g. being able to give a clinical name to the difficulty I've had swallowing since anxiety attacks started a year ago--disphagia--naming something helps take away its mystery and power; knowing that the dissonance of being an outwardly calm, easy-going person who suffers from crippling anxiety is very common). And Stossel is so brutally, beautifully honest, it's impossible not to be in awe of his ability to thrive and succeed despite his Augean stable of anxieties. But man, so much of this book really upset me. No, it wasn't the graphic descriptions of his emetophobia (fear of vomiting), nor the painfully tiny font in the innumerable footnotes. It wasn't even the disquieting sense that Scott Stossel might not really want to resolve his anxieties. For they make up the only Scott Stossel he's ever known. His anxieties define him. He addresses this paradox quite openly, but so little of his narrative offers hope for healing and resolution that it left me feeling quite sad. Until I realized that this was his journey. Not mine. What really got to me can be summed up in one word: Drugs. I do not question the biological and genetic components of depression and anxiety. Stossel does an outstanding job of illuminating the strengths and weaknesses of these links and how they connect with the factors of a child's culture and an adult's environment. I do not question the role psychiatric drugs can play in alleviating the devastating effects of mental illness. But again, I had to put down my kaleidoscope and allow Stossel to tell his story, without letting it define mine. My Age of Anxiety is one big book report combined with a show-and-tell on psychopharmacology. Most upsetting are the details of Stossel's routine before a public speaking event. The combination of drugs and alcohol is bewildering. Awful. The behavior of an addict. I had to set the book aside. The ending chapters on Resolution and Resilience are the shortest of all. Resilience merits a brief mention as an "emerging" area of research, which is so unfortunate. Dr. Martin Seligman has been conducting research into developing resilience as a means to treat and resolve anxiety and depression for more than twenty years and currently heads the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. There is valuable empirical research available on the power of positive psychology interventions. Scott Stossel has been treated for profound anxiety since childhood. He has been in therapy and on some form of medication for over thirty-five years. He bares his soul and his brain in this book, to the service of all who suffer from or who love someone with anxiety and depression. I'm grateful that I am not Scott Stossel--my small posse of trouble looks like a box of chocolate cupcakes with pink cream frosting compared to his gallon of cod liver oil. I'm also grateful he risked everything to write and speak about his journey. His research is priceless, his story unique, his voice incomparable. And it made me more determined than ever to pursue a path to healing and peace of mind that doesn't have side effects.

  • Jessica
    2019-02-09 06:53

    I don't talk about it to any great lengths around here, but I've struggled with anxiety and depression in different ways and at different levels of intensity since I was a teenager. It largely went unaddressed -- and though I struggled, I thought was mostly doing okay not addressing it -- until the summer I turned 26. That’s when I had a full-scale meltdown that rendered me, essentially, a non-functional human being for the better part of two years. Only a few of my closest friends and two therapists (one completing her practicum in the student services department of my grad school and, after graduation nixed the free counseling benefits, the woman who saved my life) really know how bad it got for me. But believe me when I say it was very, very bad. Even though I am doing considerably better these days (I'd give myself a solid 85 on a 100-point grading scale), it’s something that I am still working on and it’s always helpful to have a reminder that I am not alone. Paired with an article by Stossel meant to promote the book, The Atlantic ran a piece called This is Anxiety that completely floored me. I was on the waiting list for this book for more than six months, and I was both excited and terribly nervous to read this one. Yeah, I was nervous to read this. There was a little part of me that was afraid that it would paint a picture of anxiety that I couldn’t relate to and that’s something that I find unenjoyable to the point where it causes me physical discomfort. See, my anxiety is primarily social, driven by the irrational fear of others’ judgment and the irrational need for external validation. I compare myself to others in a compulsive and problematic way because I worry about what they think of me. Reading a portrait of anxiety that’s too different from mine would really only make me more anxious. Jesus Christ, I’d tell myself, I can’t even do anxiety the right way. I know that it doesn’t make any fucking sense, but that’s what my brain does sometimes. But reading this book turned out to be one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. I woke up early one Saturday morning and took a cup of coffee, my iPod, and my cat out onto the balcony, read the first 65 pages in one shot, and cried at how real it was. Scott Stossel’s anxiety is way more severe than mine is, and way more generalized. I don’t typically worry that much about things that could kill me or make me sick. I worry a bit about situations where I can’t predict the outcome, but the real, true, pathological worry comes from the fear that I won’t know the “proper” way to behave in an unfamiliar situation. I don’t have a fear of vomiting or a fear of flying and I don’t medicate my anxiety with anything other than food (I've only taken Ativan once, given to me by a friend, when I was out at a bar and had a panic attack so severe that I went into the bathroom and threw up. It helped me feel calmer, but I am so afraid of being dependent on medication to feel calm that I prefer to focus on psychotherapy. Just a personal preference.) So while I couldn’t necessarily relate to Stossel’s experience, I was moved by his open writing and his thoughtful approach to the causes, manifestations, and treatments of anxiety. Stossel mixes descriptions of his own anxiety with his anxious familial history and how society’s understanding of anxiety has shifted through the centuries. He examines what ancient philosophers and Darwin thought of anxiety, as well as what the current psychoanalytic, cognitive-behavioral, neurobiological, and psychopharmacological thoughts are. I do wonder if this may get a little dense for some folks. It was a breeze for me, but I do have a B.A. in psychology, and my current job involves whittling cutting-edge psychological research into brief bites that can appeal to psychologists and lay folk alike. I’ve also sat through sessions with therapists who have different philosophies on how to approach my anxiety. I was already familiar with many of the ideas that Stossel talks about, but I appreciated how he brought everything full circle.I had several personal epiphanies while reading this book. That Saturday morning with my coffee and my cat was probably the first time that I genuinely thought about just how closely linked my depression and anxiety are, and I laughed out loud when Stossel talked about how he gets anxious about his anxiety – the fear that you have to keep it hidden has an exacerbating effect. I also appreciated the acknowledgement that anxiety can have its benefits, as that's something I've insisted many times. I rarely act without thinking; my problem is that I often can't act without overthinking. This is a deeply personal book, so it primarily emphasizes one man's experience, but it’s also packed with research. It’s very-well written, honest, and thoughtful. Many of the negative reviews I’ve read address my initial concern that it would not reflect my experience with anxiety, but I found that I appreciated how Stossel used his own personal story without dismissing the experiences of others. I personally found it wonderfully validating and highly recommend it. But, then again, I am the kind of person who has learned to find a great deal of comfort in the process of talking about my anxiety with others. If I were to list off my closest friends for you, the thing that most of them have in common is our anxiety. When I get together with Katie or Liz or Sarah, we often spend time comparing our experiences with anxiety and recounting therapy sessions. I like it because it helps me validated, less like a big fat weirdo. I also like it because I've had enough CBT and REBT pounded into my head that talking about what makes me anxious helps me identify the irrationality of what makes me anxious. I find it therapeutic. That may not be the case for you. I understand why others say this book made them more anxious, and I think that's something to consider if and when you approach this book as an anxious person.

  • Kirsten
    2019-02-03 22:57

    I need to think about this book some more. My first reaction is that I didn't really like it, but I'm struggling with articulating why, and I haven't quite figured out if that's mostly just frustration with the author for seeing the same therapist for 25 years with little positive result, or if there's more to it than that.ETA:Ok, I think I've figured it out. The author inserts himself into the narrative as a case study, but he actually does a very poor job of discussing his treatment in the context of the philosophies and therapeutic techniques described. He doesn't want to talk about that, he just wants to tell you how he FEELS about it. He also does a terrible job of actually describing coherently how anxiety is treated by psychiatric professionals in general; he mainly talks about his own experiences, which are... kind of weird, and probably not all that representative. I was particularly irked by the way cognitive behavioral therapy was represented, given that it's one of the only techniques for treating anxiety that has a proven track record.Even more damning, I think, is the absence of anyone else's experiences. Many of the great mental health books (The Noonday Demon, for example) bring in the author's own experiences, but they also call upon the experiences of others. Stossel, instead, has two modes -- insanely personal about his direct experiences, or very journalistic and broad. There's very little middle ground and very little acknowledgement of the varying experiences of anxiety.

  • Jonathan
    2019-02-15 01:29

    Excellent. Funny, full of fascinating historical, medical and psychological bits and bobs and, as someone who has struggled with anxiety all his life, and has been having a really shitty time of it the last few months, unexpectedly helpful.

  • Michael
    2019-02-14 03:42

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who suffers from anxiety and related conditions like phobias, depression, panic attacks, etc.

  • Mtejeda
    2019-02-06 04:51

    If you have an anxiety or panic disorder or know someone who does, read this book. The author exhaustively researched the history, genetics, and role of "nurture" of anxiety. Up until perhaps 25 years ago, anxiety was not considered a real condition (ask any psychiatrist who has been practicing for many years) and was called by many other names such as "hysteria" and "neurosis". If you have anxiety, the information is priceless and the author's own memoir contributions about his own anxiety is comforting - you are not alone. However, if you DO NOT suffer from anxiety, but know someone who does, this will help you understand what hell living with the condition can be. We wouldn't tell cancer sufferers that they "aren't trying hard enough" to get over their cancer or to "cheer up and think positive" to get over the disease. Neither should we say the same to those who have anxiety. Great book. Completely readable and chock full of info.

  • Sarah Novak
    2019-02-13 23:54

    I didn't dislike "My Age of Anxiety," but I found it frustrating. Scott Stossel is a good journalist as well as a life-long anxiety sufferer. He brings together research from science & humanities and weaves it together with his own experience as a patient. Theoretically, I like this kind of book, but empirically, I don't think it worked here. I enjoyed "The Noonday Demon" and "The Happiness Hypothesis," which cover similar territory. Stossel's book is good as a sweeping/meandering overview of the concept and treatment of anxiety, and his personal examples are interesting. It's actually inspiring to learn how much he has accomplished given how severe his anxiety has been at times. My problem is that he doesn't acknowledge his own myopia enough. As another review suggested, this book needed additional viewpoints to get out of Stossel's own head (and his perceptions of his therapists') more. I'm a researcher and familiar with this domain, so my guess is that folks who are new to the topic will like this book more than I did.

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-02-21 23:45

    3.5. The author has suffered from anxiety for most of his life, as did his mother before him. He definitely knows what he is talking about and this is a well researched book. What I found very surprising is that there are so many different definitions of anxiety that even the experts do not agree on this or the treatment. As well as family background and personal stories, the author includes many interesting factions on phobias and the famous people who had some strange ones. Also, some famous people who suffered or suffer with anxiety. I have to admit I was very surprised with some of them. Interesting read, that was rather personal for me as well, as I have family members who have to deal with this daily.

  • Julie Ehlers
    2019-01-25 06:36

    I’m not entirely sure what drew me to My Age of Anxiety. Although I did go through a period of anxiety a couple years back, it was thankfully relatively brief and mild, so reading an entire book about the subject was probably not essential in my case. Regardless, this book was extremely informative on the topic, comprising both a history of anxiety under its various names and guises, and a personal memoir of Scott Stossel’s ongoing struggle with the disorder. Some of this was really interesting to me—the jockeying for inclusion of various terms in the DSM, for example, or the way all the different drugs were conceived and received by the market. In addition, Stossel’s own story was fascinating and really livened up the proceedings. Unfortunately, the book was overlong and repetitive, and there was way too much Freud for my liking, so it ended up being kind of a slog. The bottom line is that this book will teach you a lot about anxiety, but you shouldn’t expect to have a particularly good time learning it, and if you’re looking for solutions to your own issues with anxiety, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.

  • Audrey
    2019-02-13 22:31

    This is a scrupulously researched, historically sweeping, and deeply personal examination of a--what? disease? aberration? normal part of our humanity?--that afflicts an increasing percentage of the population. I picked it up because I, too, have been afflicted, though not in nearly so devastating way as Scott Stossel. The book is part memoir, part sociological study, and part cultural treatise. Stossel doesn't hold back in revealing his own struggle with anxiety from the age of eleven. But his story never gets in the way; he uses it skillfully to enhance and illuminate the narrative. Even more impressive--and something that I am particularly drawn to--he avoids easy generalizations about drugs, nurture vs. nature (both sections of the book) and the existential meaning of emotional afflictions.The historical context was particularly interesting. Stossel starts almost every section with a quote from a historical figure, from Samuel Johnson and Shakespeare to Cicero, which goes to show that however unique we may believe our own era to be, humans were feeling similar things hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Stossel footnotes liberally--sometimes too liberally, with notes that take up a larger percentage of the page than the text. Aside from creating a slightly disjointed reading experience at times, these footnotes didn't bother me, since they were always relevant and intriguing. Given the huge percentage of the population that has been diagnosed with anxiety, this book should have a naturally large audience. But even if you haven't had a panic attack or felt dread creeping around the edges of your life, you'll find much to admire in this book.

  • LibraryReads
    2019-02-01 04:58

    “Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, has written an all-encompassing treatise on the condition of anxiety, one of the most pervasive yet most misunderstood human conditions. Stossel not only recounts the history of the condition itself, its causes, and its treatment, but bravely relates his own lifelong battle with anxiety. Sits well alongside other works on mental health like Daniel B. Smith’s Monkey Mind and Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon, and highly recommended for anyone who struggles with anxiety or who has loved ones who suffer.”Cristella Bond, Anderson Public Library, Anderson, IN

  • Dan Harris
    2019-02-03 02:31

    Fascinating, important, and beyond brave. Bravo.

  • Anna
    2019-01-31 06:43

    I bought this book impulsively with my birthday book token, having opened it in the shop and read that one of author’s main anxiety symptoms is emetophobia (fear of vomiting). Since I also experience this and had never read mention of it elsewhere, this was curiously reassuring. Indeed, if you suffer from anxiety, this book is a curious mixture of worrying and calming. On the one hand, Stossel has an especially severe manifestation of anxiety and recounts many other horrifying case studies as well as his own misery. Thus the book makes you realise just how bad anxiety can get. Conversely, there is definitely something to be said for gaining some understanding of what your brain is doing, as well as realising you are not the only one to experience such dysfunction. So there is a sense of companionship to be found here - although mercifully I have nowhere near as serious a case of anxiety as the author, sometimes I had a real sense of familiarity with Stossel’s writing.Perhaps unusually, the autobiographical and wider historical elements of this book mesh really well. Moreover, the rival social and medical explanations for anxiety are nicely balanced. Stossel, like me, is somewhat uncomfortable with the current tendency to seek neat explanations for every human emotion and behaviour in fMRI scans and gene testing. Many interesting findings from such research are recounted here, but always with caveats. The earlier history of anxiety is also covered thoroughly, rather than an excitable over-emphasis on New Findings (a trap many pop social science books fall into). I liked the clarity of this - that the symptoms we now arbitrarily classify as anxiety have existed as far back as records go, under a range of different names. I hadn’t previously realised the extent to which the current categories of mental illness were crystallised as a direct result of drugs being developed to treat them. Stossel notes that some psychologists still insist depression and anxiety are the same thing and that sub-categorising them is meaningless.The ongoing interdisciplinary disagreements between psychologists and psychiatrists regarding the treatment of anxiety are also fascinating. Stossel recounts personal experiences which exemplify this - one professional prescribes him high doses of SSRIs as the other tells him to give up the drugs to focus on CBT. In the end neither worked for him and he remains deeply anxious. In a way, this makes the ending of book unusually downbeat; there are no hopeful platitudes about finding a treatment that works for you and not letting anxiety effect your life. Whatever the causes of anxiety, Stossel has experienced it since early childhood and seems to expect this to continue for the rest of his life. He is also honest about using alcohol as a coping mechanism, an especially bad idea given he has a family history of alcoholism. Nonetheless, I didn’t find the book depressing overall. I was left feeling very sorry for Stossel but much better informed about anxiety as a condition. I find feeling better informed to be comforting. The only quibble I have with the book is that it’s very male; nearly all the examples of anxious people from history are men. Moreover, there is a gendered element to the way anxiety symptoms (however characterised) have been discussed and treated over the years, which is glossed over. Clearly this level of detail is outside Stossel’s scope, so it just creeps in here and there in sentences like, 'In 1975, it was estimated that one in every five women and one in every thirteen men in America had taken Librium, Valium, or some other benzodiazepine'. That's a major difference! There are no doubt other works to be found on this specific subject, though. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who has experienced anxiety or is close to someone that does. It is an excellent, compelling read.

  • John Braine
    2019-02-11 05:57

    I have a history with anxiety disorders / social phobia to the degree that I was out of work for a year in my twenties, and went to a mental health clinic 5 days a week. It took many years to get back to some kind of normality. I still suffer from anxiety. But I've just learned to deal with it and accept it. Or sometimes I keep it hidden, sometimes not. I also now have a daughter with another form of anxiety called selective mutism. Despite all that, I didn't seek this book out. It just popped up on my favourite book blog as a recommended read even to people without a vested interest.It's not a self-help book. It's a history of anxiety disorders, both general, and a personal history of the authors mental health. Though I think it fell short between those two stools to some degree; The history of anxiety disorders viewed through the eyes of one patient's experience is a slightly skewed overview. There's an awful lot about Emetophobia for example (fear of vomiting), and a strong focus on the history of philosophical musings of anxiety as a fear of "something that might happen", whereas I think most people with anxiety disorders suffer with experiences as they are happening. Those niggles aside it's still a great read. And the big questions about mental health in general are well investigated. Is mental illness genetic? Is it upbringing? Are disorders manufactured by big pharma? What cures work? Talk Therapy? Medication? Does it need to be cured? etc. It's also good to see anxiety disorders get a small bit of the limelight. Depression seems to be the only mental health issue people talk about these days. Even though the statistics in this book show that more people suffer from anxiety disorders.To summarize, none of the big questions are answered categorically but there's enough well researched information to make up your own mind. I'd recommend it even if you've a passing interest in this area.

  • Meg - A Bookish Affair
    2019-02-01 05:56

    "My Age of Anxiety" is part memoir, part exploration on what anxiety is and its history. Anxiety affects many people and is often hidden. I saw Scott Stossel speak at the 2014 Gaithersburg book Festival and he was speaking about his book my age of anxiety. His talk really hit home for me because I also deal with anxiety on a daily basis. It's not particularly fun but through this book it so that helped me understand what was going on a little bit more. As I said, this book is part memoir and part history of anxiety disorders. Stossel is a great author for this book because he suffers from extreme anxiety to the point where he has to self medicate in order to be able to deal with things such as making speeches. He really puts himself out there so that readers can understand what it feels like to deal with anxiety and to try to treat it. Stossel covers a lot of different angles of anxiety. He talks about how scientists have tried to figure out why it happens. He weighs all of his cards out on the table and I realize how difficult that must be for somebody who has major anxiety. This is an intimate look at what it means to suffer from this mental on this as well as take give some context around how scientists are beginning to look at this. Overall, this book would be a great pick for those that suffer from anxiety but also those that love someone who deals with anxiety!

  • Laura
    2019-02-02 00:51

    This is a long book. Perhaps too long to really hold my attention but there is no doubting it is very well researched.The parts I found most interesting were whether anxiety is genetic or inherited. Like the author, I can trace anxiety back in my family and it has manifested itself in the next generation. When the author talked about how his own young children were showing early signs, that did strike a chord with me as same thing has happened with one of my children.The author is American and has been in Therapy for his disorder for over 25 years. Interestingly, this has not cured him. Nor has the medication he takes which leads me to believe what I have always thought. You can't cure anxiety but you can learn to live with it.To conclude, if you have anxiety I would say read this book for some different insights into it but it doesn't teach you how to cope or how to cure it but it was interesting.ARC provided by Netgalley.

  • Kita
    2019-02-10 22:45

    I heard Scott Stossel on NPR and he was so funny and intelligent and articulate that I immediately wanted to read his book. In many ways, Stossel is a hot mess - and he bravely writes about his experiences here. (And I mean bravely. He is brutally honest about his anxiety.) He is afraid of cheese, vomiting, and airplanes, along with numerous other things. Despite his struggles, he's the editor of the Atlantic and this book is a well-researched, well-written and compelling account of both his own struggles with anxiety and the history of anxiety in society. A really interesting read.

  • Andrew
    2019-02-03 06:54

    In short, I have since the age of about two been a twitchy bundle of phobias, fears, and neuroses. And I have, since the age of ten, when I was first taken to a mental hospital for evaluation and then referred to a psychiatrist for treatment, tried in various ways to overcome my anxiety.Here’s what I’ve tried: individual psychotherapy (three decades of it), family therapy, group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), rational emotive therapy (RET), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), hypnosis, meditation, role-playing, interoceptive exposure therapy, in vivo exposure therapy, supportive-expressive therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), self-help workbooks, massage therapy, prayer, acupuncture, yoga, Stoic philosophy, and audiotapes I ordered off a late-night TV infomercial.And medication. Lots of medication. Thorazine. Imipramine. Desipramine. Chlorpheniramine. Nardil. BuSpar. Prozac. Zoloft. Paxil. Wellbutrin. Effexor. Celexa. Lexapro. Cymbalta. Luvox. Trazodone. Levoxyl. Propranolol. Tranxene. Serax. Centrax. St. John’s wort. Zolpidem. Valium. Librium. Ativan. Xanax. Klonopin.Also: beer, wine, gin, bourbon, vodka, and scotch.Here’s what’s worked: nothing.***A funny thing happened to me while reading Scott Stossel’s My Age of Anxiety: I started feeling panicked. Not all the time, but in spots, such as when the author offered up an especially humiliating anecdote involving himself, Martha’s Vineyard, and a plumbing situation extracted directly from the deepest, darkest corners of my nightmares.As a socially anxious person who suffers a great deal from the tension resulting from incidents of second-hand embarrassment, many of Stossel’s stories had me squirming as I read them. At the same time, however, while reading I realized that as much as anxiety in various forms has impacted my life, what I’ve dealt with so far is child’s play compared to the ordeals faced by some. Which I suppose is one of the strength’s of Stossel’s book—it both illuminates and to some degree quantifies the many different experiences and forms of anxiety, and a life led beneath its umbrella.My Age of Anxiety is part academic analysis, part historical text, and part memoir/tell-all regarding the many up and downs and idiosyncrasies of a life built up and around a multi-headed core of anxieties. Stossel holds nothing back—he disarms the reader with total honesty, diving into his and his family’s histories dealing with neuroses of all shades, with special attention given to his mother’s overprotective, often smothering nature.From a very young age, Stossel was routinely assaulted by his anxieties (one of the most prominent being emetophobia—a pathological fear of vomit and throwing up). These anxieties and fears, and their impact on his life, are the through-line around which he discusses the very nature of anxiety and its historical development in the psychoanalytical community; the evolution of pharmacological care and treatment; and the philosophy surrounding anxiety and whether it is a result of nature, nurture, or some impossible to pin-down combination thereof. Indeed he states that anxiety “is a function of biology and philosophy, body and mind, instinct and reason, personality and culture,” with no single villain to target or wound to cauterize in order to quell the noise.The academic aspects of the book are strong. Stossel goes into great depth with respect to the evolution of anxiety—from Freud’s belief that anxiety is a riddle, the solving of which would “throw a flood light on our whole mental existence,” to detractors claiming that anxiety is nothing more than shyness given gravitas, to its eventual inclusion in the DSM—and the cultures and industries that have developed around it. However, it’s the personal accounts that I was most interested in, specifically the well-tread-but-still-interesting details regarding famous creatives who’ve suffered with anxiety and thrived either as a result of or in spite of their condition. The supposed ties between anxiety and creative genius are nothing new, but Stossel grounds them in modern society, referencing the uptick in evidence of extreme anxiety (social or otherwise) in creative types as being related to the work of another author, Barry Schwartz, who discusses in his book The Paradox of Choice (an excellent read) how the possibilities now open to us, as individuals, create a certain amount of anxiety due to the difficulty inherent in deciding our fates for ourselves, and in the increased public image that is so often associated with creative success of any kind.Overall I wouldn’t say I enjoyed reading My Age of Anxiety so much as I found it illuminating. Stossel’s bare-all approach is both the book’s greatest asset and its most obvious weakness. But I can only cite it as such through my personal experience with the book, which involved being unexpectedly affected by the honesty with which the author relays his history. On a purely informational level, it’s a fantastic read—thoroughly researched and well organized. Definitely recommended, but be warned: it might trigger more than you expect.

  • Leah Rachel
    2019-01-27 03:30

    I read My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind with some anxiety that this book about anxiety would make me anxious. But I also hoped that Scott Stossel’s part-memoir, part-history-of-anxiety would provide me with some insights into the mental illness that follows me around my life, with its dread and catastrophizing. While I did feel that some things were lacking or left out from this book, Stossel’s book taught me a lot I didn’t know about anxiety, the way scientists have interpreted it over the years, neurochemistry, the drug industry, and more.The way Stossel mixes his own experience with history is effective. It shows the anxious person reading this book that Stossel actually understands what it’s like to live with anxiety and all of its stigma and complications. He often uses his own experience to thought experiment with various viewpoints about anxiety over the years, using his experiences as an example for the reader to see what it would mean, for example, to say that phobias were all somehow rooted in childhood traumas. One thing I was shocked to learn is that many scientists can’t, biologically, tell the difference between generalized anxiety disorder and depression; that the term was created overnight to differentiate it from panic disorder; and that some researchers think there may be no difference, making the different marketed medications and treatments for the two troubling. Stossel covers a ton in 337 pages, ranging from Plato and Hippocrates to modern-day debates over the psychiatric drug industry.There were a few places where I think Stossel should have pushed farther in his analysis. He touches often on the ways that anxiety is seen too often as weakness, particularly in men. He also mentions studies of PTSD in soldiers, and discusses anxiety or lack of it in fighter pilots. But he never explicitly engages the ways that gender and society’s toxic view of masculinity stigmatize anxiety in men while branding anxiety as a women’s illness. At one point, he mentions hysteria—but he never goes into the ways that for a long time, anxiety and depression were seen as weak and so feminine, and how extraordinarily gendered mental illness has been over the years. Similarly, Stossel discusses the famed historical men who have experienced mental illness (he uses women examples, but much less often), but fails to talk about the horrible conditions of asylums, of decades of the mentally ill being locked away, hidden, left to die, made homeless. This is a significant gap in his analysis, and also important because at one point he gives many reasons why anxiety would have skyrocketed in the 21st century, never wondering whether mental illness becoming a biological and treatable disease would have made it less shameful and potentially life-destructive to publicly have a mental illness. Stossel had room for all these thought experiments and historical studies, given that at one point he uses his sometimes-overused footnotes to theorize about the possibilities of what emetophobics and bulimics could do for each other in a therapeutic space, a thought experiment I found both irrelevant to the book and troubling. Despite these gaps, I did find the book very useful, as well as very well-written and well-organized. I learned a ton from Stossel’s My Age of Anxiety, and it’s a useful tome for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of how different forms of anxiety—including generalized, panic disorder, and phobias—have been studied, debated, and categorized.

  • Leila
    2019-02-22 22:37

    I enjoyed reading this, and I read only a little non-fiction of the Malcolm Gladwell/Bill Bryson/pop science variety. My one main criticism is that the author beats his own issues so relentlessly into your head that you are left incredulous a) that such a profoundly disabled and neurotic soul could have the wherewithal to accomplish anything at all let alone have a major career b) suspicious that perhaps the reason he has never been able to "cure" or at least mitigate his own anxieties (which are innumerable) is because his entire livelihood seems predicated upon maintaining, nurturing and possibly overstating his own afflictions; and c) that his privileged upbringing and access to some of the WASPY-est enclaves this country has to offer are more integral to his success than he acknowledges. I struggled with the believability factor primarily because I myself have suffered with many of these anxieties, and it seemed the author one the one hand wished to make it known that he is very deeply pathological yet also with a note of pride that he is resistant to all known treatments. I wonder, if this is true, why someone would continue in therapy for 35 years...smacks of narcissism to me. I am vehemently opposed to psychopharmacology, and also don't think much of what the therapeutic community has to offer in the vein of the "talking cure," (none of those options helped me at all either so there is a note of truth in that) yet I also know that recovery is possible even amongst the more deeply affected. Interesting, but ultimately pretty self-serving.

  • Lucas Rodrigues
    2019-02-11 22:39

    I would like to write a more elaborate review about this book. Unfortunately, I have read it a long time ago and can't remember many details. Specifically, I can not tell you about the complex explanations dealing with the neurological and genetics sources of social anxiety.What I can tell you is the following: this book will really help if you suffer from anxiety. Before reading this book I thought that my condition was absolutely unique. Since my childhood, I had a lot of feelings that I could not tell anyone because I thought people will not understand. One thing I learned from this book is that the symptoms of anxiety are known by plenty of individuals around the world. I feel less alone.Another useful lesson I got from this book is that anxiety can not stop you. Scott Stossel anxiety is remarkably worse than mine. Still, he has a successful career and wonderful family. I change my whole vision about cowardice after reading this book and today I believe I'm indeed a courageous man.Although this is one of my favorite books I didn't want to write a review because it will be necessarily personal. I change my mind when I think that someone could read this review and find out that the book could be useful to her/him too.

  • Carlos Rivera
    2019-02-19 00:54

    I truly recommend this book it's simple I know about depression and even more about anxiety I am living with it everyday. Sometimes it's hard to explain to people what you have or feel so after reading this book I just have to give them a copy or tell them to read it. Sometimes I was reading and it was me, any person that deals with anxiety knows what I'm taking about and this book is a true example a living one and it's so great writing that I was just angry I did not write it myself :)Some people may be learning for the first time about my issues with anxiety but I think we have to tell people and not be ashamed of our struggle it's hard living with anxiety everyday. I thank the author for making this issue more open and easy to talk about. Not only do I real like this book because it's so great put together but I know about this so much.Thank You!

  • Daphne
    2019-02-10 01:40

    This book is very thorough and extremely well-researched, so much so that I underlined passages every few pages and filled it with sticky bookmarks. Very informative for anyone who suffers from or knows people who suffer from anxiety, covering historical, philosophical, social, psychological, medical and scientific aspects. It took time to finish because I had to leave it and come back to it a couple of times (some parts feel very close to home). In any case, it is a fascinating read.

  • Anja V
    2019-02-17 05:42

    with the absolute mess that has been my brain those last few weeks this book seems like an appropriate read

  • Kadi Viik
    2019-01-26 03:50

    Brilliantly written and extremely well researched: a pure pleasure to read.

  • Ashley Catt
    2019-02-14 04:53

    Before this begins to sound overly negative, I have to state that, if not much else, this book is compelling. Finishing it today, I managed about 180 pages of it, without putting it down on the train (admittedly this has been a day where I've spent about six hours commuting).However, I feel that this book is very flawed, no matter how interesting it may be. Despite pharmaceutical treatments of anxiety comprising a large section of this book, Stossel appears to be highly biased against them, and this is very evident in his work. In fact, he doesn't seem to have much faith in any kind of treatment.The overall tone of this book is highly negative and laced with pessimism. If you want a greater understanding of psychology, or a springboard for further reading, perhaps give this a go. If you're looking to commit to any kind of treatment, I would tell you to avoid this book. It never goes as far to say that anxiety is incurable, however it maintains an attitude of incredulity towards any kind of treatment, from holistic to pharmaceutical, from cognitive to New Age. You won't come out with inspired confidence.Also, I find the author very hard to relate to. There isn't anything wrong with being an affluent white male who has a family and a prolific job, but it makes the experience of reading a bit less empathetic in a way that he always refers to his own privilege (but not in the way that suggests that he is aware of it). Also there are a few hints of misogyny, such as calling a nurse a 'bitch' and labelling a doctor 'kind and pretty and smart' whereas her male colleagues were all treated with the respect afforded to academia. It makes him kind of hard to like.He also uses quotes, and often doesn't refer to them. When inserted into paragraph breaks, they can be jarring and irrelevant.We have a smart individual here who is writing about his own experiences with anxiety, but the major failing of this book is his own biases. His voice is too loud. His own story is too central, when generally it's not what I really want to hear.

  • Morgan Blackledge
    2019-01-25 00:43

    This book is good. Really good. But in full disclosure, I'm following my read of it with a book that is so spectacularly good that it's rather unfairly tainting my recollection of this one. This analogy will date me circa Stone Age. But It's like writing a review of a Donavan performance after seeing Dylan (circa 1967). Just because Donavan is an inferior bard, doesn't make him without merit in his own right. But geez he sure is lame in comparison. This analogy may be an even bigger fail, because I actually never liked Donavan. But I hope some of you (fellow elders of Goodreads) get my meaning here.Anyway. This is a funny, well researched, thought provoking, deeply personal and at times very funny read on an important and under reported subject. It's totally worth reading. The author cites a lot of Freudian ideas and If your in the mental health profession (like me), some of it will make you want to scream "that's not how we do things any more".But it's worth your time because it's a very sophisticated elaboration of the general consumers experience of our field. And frankly speaking, we don't perform well in the eyes of the author. One of the things I appreciated hearing about was how intractable the authors symptoms are. Wow. Highly treatment resistant. I think it's important to note that the authors experience is extremely unusual. Most clinically significant Anxiety is treated or managed via conventional therapy, including pharmacological interventions with concurrent cognitive behavioral therapy. The author had a disastrous experience with an exposure treatment. But it's important to note that this is a spectacularly effective method for most cases.This book is pretty darn good. I bet I'd be even more enthusiastic if I wasn't reading what I'm currently reading. But that being said. This is a real solid read.

  • Hank Stuever
    2019-02-06 03:42

    As forthcoming as he is, I kept getting the sense that the author was holding back certain details -- it remains a mystery to me how the worst of his symptoms, as he describes them, were and are something he can keep private, thanks to medication and alcohol. He was an emotional wreck in middle school and high school and yet he keeps mentioning having friends, being social, moving through life essentially unimpeded. He's doing better, frankly, than many of his peers. There are sports, there is a date with a girl, there is function in spite of his dysfunction, which can strike the reader as incongruent. His symptoms are described as all consuming and yet he got into and through Harvard; he acquiesces to participating (even starring) in events that cause him great anxiety (book tours, public speaking, being the groom in a big wedding) and somehow survives and even thrives. I'd like to know more from the people who know him best -- if his anxiety is so severe, what makes him any fun to be around? Why marry him? (This Washington Post profile -- linked below -- is somewhat helpful, except that his colleagues say they never knew his anxiety was so severe.) I still didn't get a sense of what this man is like day to day. The book is very well written and thorough, however. It will teach you a lot about the history of diagnosing, treating and coping with anxiety disorder, which sounds like a truly awful thing to have. I didn't mind the meandering mix of research/history and memoir, but I don't think he got to a final point. I guess there is no final point. He just has to live with it. "Scott Stossel's secret" from The Washington Post Magazine, June 19, 2014: