Reviews for My Age of Anxiety : Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind

Booklist Reviews 2013 December #1
*Starred Review* Stossel, editor of the Atlantic magazine, is a very nervous man trying awfully hard not to be. "I have since the age of about two been a twitchy bundle of phobias, fears, and neuroses." He suffers from lots of physical symptoms and a panoply of phobias (most notably, a fear of vomiting). "I'm like Woody Allen trapped in John Calvin," he confesses. Psychotherapy, multiple medications, and alcohol provide incomplete relief. He ponders the possible causes of panic attacks and anxiety: a strong genetic component, environmental influences, and childhood upbringing. He wonders whether anxiety is purely a psychological problem or something else--a medical disease, spiritual disorder, cultural phenomenon, or evolutionary survival mechanism. For a layperson, he has considerable knowledge about prescription anti-anxiety drugs (perhaps based on three decades of using them). Tying together notions about anxiety culled from history, philosophy, religion, sports, and literature with current neuropsychiatric research and his extensive personal experience, Stossel's book is more than an astounding autobiography, more than an atlas of anxiety. His deft handling of a delicate topic and frustrating illness highlights the existential dread, embarrassment, and desperation associated with severe anxiety yet allows room for resiliency, hope, and transcendence. Absolutely fearless writing. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2014 January
Worried sick

Though he’s a highly regarded journalist, Scott Stossel has long endured an affliction that was hidden from many of his closest associates: near-crippling anxiety. In My Age of Anxiety, a narrative that’s both deeply personal and wide-ranging, he examines the history and treatment of this common disorder.

It took much courage for you to write this personal account of your inner life: What do you hope your book will accomplish?

I hope this book will provide readers with a deeper understanding of the condition, and of both the scientific and cultural contexts in which it exists. Especially for people struggling with anxiety, I hope the book can provide a modicum of solace—the recognition that they are not alone. I also hope people find it entertaining and possibly somewhat hopeful, despite my trawling through some dark places.

By all outside appearances, you’re the capable and confident editor of The Atlantic. Do you think many of your colleagues will be surprised to read about your struggles with anxiety?

Some of them already definitely have been. (As advance copies of the book circulate around the office, I’ve had a parade of colleagues in my office telling me they’d like to give me a hug. Which is nice and also a little uncomfortable.) And I suspect I will continue to be greeted with surprised reactions from professional acquaintances.

The book’s section on drugs is sure to be controversial. What are your thoughts about Big Pharma’s response?

I don’t yet have any sense of how Big Pharma will respond. But I’m definitely not anti-drug. (How could I be when I take medications myself!) In fact, I’d say I’m guardedly pro-pharma—drugs are the best or only solution for many people. I just think we need to be cognizant of the medical risks and societal risks. We should view drugs with both skepticism and hope.

You make many references to the caring and support of your spouse, Susanna. How are you able to maintain relationships with family and friends given your admittedly narcissistic focus on yourself and your condition?

In some ways, my inward focus on my anxiety makes me a worse husband/father/son/friend than I otherwise would be. Susanna has sometimes had to carry an unfairly heavy load. But I would like to think my anxiety has also enlarged my capacity for empathy and made me more conscientious and effective in some areas of my life (even as it has clearly made me less effective in others).

How would you describe the fiscal impact of anxiety—on families, workers and businesses, as well as the healthcare system?

By some measures the impact is huge. Missed days of work due to anxiety disorders (and depression) cost the U.S. economy upward of $50 billion annually. And anxiety is a leading cause of visits to doctors’ offices (which may actually help the economy, but is still not a good thing). Clinical anxiety can place a large fiscal burden on families—it can contribute to unemployment, alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as general distress.

You state that your lifelong struggle with anxiety might be a “source of strength” and a “bestower of certain blessings.” Can you explain how so?

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.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2014 August
Stossel (editor of The Atlantic and a freelance writer) takes an interesting approach to describing anxiety disorders. As a magazine editor and journalist, he did copious research for the book, revealing numerous facts most readers are not likely to know about various kinds of anxiety. However, he departs from a purely objective, dispassionate account of anxiety disorders by boldly revealing his own battle with panic disorder and specific phobias. In an unflinching way that truly compels one to keep reading, Stossel shares the story of his lifelong struggles with anxiety in its various manifestations, along with that of his family members and notable personalities. In doing so, he helps readers gain deeper insight into the phenomenology of such disorders in a fashion similar to that of Peter Kramer, who shared the world of psychiatry from his perspective after the advent of Prozac. Thus, the book engenders empathy for the author and all who experience such disorders. It further helps readers question the nature of anxiety on both a philosophical and a lived level. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates; professionals; general readers. General Readers; Upper-division Undergraduates; Professionals/Practitioners. A. L. Bizub Elmira College Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 November #2
In this captivating and intimate book, the editor of the Atlantic spares no detail about his lifelong struggle with anxiety and contextualizes his personal experience within the history of anxiety's perception and treatment. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in seven Americans currently suffers from some form of anxiety. Stossel (Sarge: The Life and Times of Sergeant Shriver, 2004), whose assorted phobias and neuroses began to manifest when he was a toddler, provides an exceptionally relatable and frequently hilarious account of a modern sufferer: the endless combinations of therapy and drugs, pharmaceutical and otherwise; the inevitable mishaps of a public figure who is terrified of flying, enclosed spaces and speaking in public; the delicate negotiation between managing psychological torment and being a husband and father. Alongside these anecdotes--one of which, involving the Kennedy family, is laugh-out-loud funny--the author explores how anxiety has affected humans for centuries and how there is still no "cure." Instead, anxiety is a "riddle" with very personal and diverse factors and symptoms, and it affects people from all walks of life. Many great minds, including Freud and Darwin, documented their battles with anxiety. They also experimented with chemical interventions, testimony of a long history of sought-after relief from anxiety's debilitating effects. Stossel deftly explores a variety of treatments and their risks and successes, providing unique insight as both a journalist (whose priority is impartial investigation) and sufferer (whose imperative is to feel well). Throughout, the author's beautiful prose and careful research combine to make this book informative, thoughtful and fun to read. Powerful, eye-opening and funny. Pitch-perfect in his storytelling, Stossel reminds us that, in many important ways, to be anxious is to be human. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 July #1

Now the most commonly acknowledged form of mental illness, anxiety wasn't even a diagnostic category 30 years ago, but even Hippocrates recognized its troublesome signs. Atlantic editor Stossel draws on his own battle with anxiety as he blends historical account with a discussion of anxiety's treatments; biological, cultural, and environmental factors; and blind-siding consequences,

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 October #3

Stossel, editor of the Atlantic, leads a jittery, searching tour through the most common mental disorder in the world: "a function of biology and philosophy, body and mind, instinct and reason, personality and culture." As an acutely miserable and anxious 10-year old, Stossel began an early journey through various therapies and medications. His experiences with these treatments doubles as an accidental history of how science, psychotherapy, medicine, and the culture at large have attempted deal with anxiety's psychological riddle: persistent fear with no "concrete object" of which to be afraid. Stossel's work features biographical sketches of famous anxiety cases like Charles Darwin and Samuel Johnson, and a rigorous survey of the foundations of anxiety research, from Freud to attachment theory to the "chemical imbalance" model of mental illness, alongside discussions of the biological, neurological, and genetic roots of the condition. Stossel's journey through his own life is unsparing, darkly funny (a nervous stomach tends to flare up at the worst times, like in front of JFK Jr.), but above all, hopeful. As with many sufferers, Stossel's quest to find relief is unfinished, but his book relays a masterful understanding of the condition he and millions of others endure. Agent: the Wylie Agency. (Jan.)

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