Published by Hci on May 3rd 2016
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The Author of this book, Reid Wilson Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist who directs the Anxiety Disorders Treatment Center. He is also Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. His approach in this book is to move towards your discomfort, your uncertainty, to do what makes you uncomfortable. He uses examples such as firefighters, professional athletes and vignettes as examples of how to confront anxiety head on. He utilizes a paradoxical approach toward anxiety. He urges readers to change their perspective/thoughts to treat their anxiety. He points out in the beginning of the book that “What you often worry about isn’t worth your attention.”
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. One might be anxious about an upcoming doctor appointment, your child going away to college, having to make an important decision, asking someone out on a date, etc. But for others anxiety can be crippling and can be an event specific or an everyday thing which can become worse over time. For those with panic attacks, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, phobias, (to name a few) anxiety can be devastating and affects their life on many levels. How many invitations have those with anxiety turned down, how have they limited their day to day activities, how has anxiety impacted their relationships or their jobs, etc.
The Author encourages people to make a list of what anxiety has caused them and then to make a list or “outcome picture” to show what they want in their lives in the future. What new things they want to try, places they may want to travel, parties they want to attend, jobs they want to apply for, etc. Then they need be uncomfortable, to face their fear, to act, to get the outcome, they desire. He has unconventional ways of achieving this that he believes that if you can welcome what you are feeling it will alleviate your anxiety. For example, when someone is experiencing anxiety he/she may think “I’ve got to back away from any threat so that I can get rid of my fearful thoughts and feelings.” He then wants you to think (tell yourself) “It’s fine that they just showed up. I can handle these feelings. I don’t have to do anything with them.” and “These are exactly the thoughts [of feelings] I want to have.” You are not saying that you want the thoughts to continue but you are accepting the thoughts you are experiencing. He urges people to look at their fearful thoughts as noise and not signals. When the thoughts pop up to mentally step back when you have that thought that tells you “Get me out of this” and notice the thought and realize it is there and not to fight it, to accept it. He believes this will make anxiety more bearable because you are dropping your resistance.
I think this book is good for reinforcing what most people might already know. I believe the vignettes may be useful to let the reader know that he/she is not alone. If someone is in treatment for anxiety they be familiar with many of the treatment(s) for anxiety. I like that this book was in layman’s terms and stresses not to avoid things but to face them but do so with the attitude that it’s okay to be anxious, I will get through this, etc. Easier said than done – his point was to give anxiety less power. You know to feel the fear but do it anyway…such as exposure exercises but while being aware of your thoughts and not resisting them. An example of an exposure exercise is: someone is afraid of elevators should ride elevators to elevate anxiety.
I liked how he showed many automatic thoughts that people think in the beginning of the book. I believe that most readers will identify with a lot of them. Think of something which causes you anxiety. Think of all the thoughts that pop into your mind. Imagine you are going to the doctor because you have a health concern. You don’t know what the outcome will be, and you automatically have thoughts about it “What if this is serious”, “What if I am really sick”, “What if this is incurable” etc. You still go to your doctor appointment even though you are anxious. For someone with a crippling anxiety or fear this is harder to do but you still need to go through it. For example, you have a fear of public speaking and you have been asked to do a presentation at work. You need your job, but your anxiety is crippling. You sweat profusely, your hands shake, your voice trembles, you are embarrassed by this. You fear the humiliation. You fear judgement. You have feelings of dread and automatic thoughts associated with this. The author tells you to accept them. To tell yourself it’s OK if my hands shake, I accept that. I am going to sweat, I’m okay with that. He states creating a paradox in your thinking will confuse your anxiety – make it stop and say “what? you are okay with this?” and by doing so your anxiety will lessen.
Will reading this book make your anxiety go away – I do not believe so – but it is a beginning. For some it will be reinforcement, for some a new way of looking at their thoughts, for some it might work for them. I think the important thing is finding what works for you.
Thank you to HCI books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.