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My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 7, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*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. --Tony Miksanek

From Bookforum

I always used to feel sorry for myself, having suffered four debilitating episodes of clinical depression and many years of moderate-to-severe dysthymia. No longer. In fact, I feel rather fortunate not to be Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, whose lifetime of psychic agony—suffering is too weak a word—is chronicled in excruciating, enthralling detail in My Age of Anxiety. […] Stossell manages to describe the most painful and embarassing experiences in a style that is candid but not melodramatic, heartrending but not self-pitying, wry but not cute. The book is not quite [...] a work of art. But it is an extraordinary literary performance nonetheless. […] In an age inundated by memoirs and psychic self-help books, My Age of Anxiety is the rare memoir that tells an entirely compelling story and the rare self-help book that really helps. You, and many thousands of readers along with you, will laugh until you cry. —George Scialabba
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307269876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307269874
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (346 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Scott Stossel is the editor of The Atlantic magazine. He is the author of MY AGE OF ANXIETY: FEAR, HOPE, DREAD, AND THE SEARCH FOR PEACE OF MIND and SARGE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SARGENT SHRIVER. His essays and articles have appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Daily Beast, The American Prospect, and many other publications, and his work has been anthologized in THE BEST AMERICAN POLITICAL WRITING and in various college textbooks. After spending most of his life in the Boston area, he currently lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

194 of 204 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First the good news. In Scott Stossel’s excellent book, he points out a major study that people with generalized anxiety disorder have much higher IQs than the average population’s.

The rest of the news in this very readable book isn’t so good for anxious depressives like Stossel, a lifelong depressive, worry-wart, and multi-phobe, his worst fear being emetophobia, the fear of throwing up.

Stossel exercises a lot of candor discussing his dyspepsia and inner demons as he consults hundreds of sources, firsthand and otherwise, to give us a tour of the many theories behind chronic anxiety with an engaging narrative that reminded me of Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss.

The main philosophical debate is this: Should we embrace our anxiety as part of our existential condition, seeing anxiety as a “calling,” a way of enhancing our life, struggling through the demons, and facing the great meaning of life questions? By muting our anxiety with pharmaceuticals, are we being lazy cowards, relinquishing the great existential quest before us? Or does the pain and suffering from biologically-induced anxiety merit a pharmaceutical solution to give relief to those innocent sufferers?

With fair-minded intensity, Stossel explores this debate and concludes that while he is a lifelong taker of anti-depressants, he overall feels there is an existential purpose to anxiety and shows a lot of research that warns us that pharmaceuticals can be highly addictive, can be hell to go off with severe withdrawals, and only work on one-third of the people who take them with serious side effects.

Interlacing major anxiety research with his own compelling narrative, Scott Stossel has written a masterful account of anxiety and its existential and pharmaceutical challenges. Highly recommended.
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89 of 102 people found the following review helpful By S. L. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
You do not have to be one of the 40 million Americans* with an anxiety disorder to appreciate Scott Stossel's My Age of Anxiety. Whether or not a reader believes anxiety is worthy of a prized DSM slot and a handshake from Big Pharma, chances are we've all felt its claws at times. Anxiety and stress do seem to be the current Modern Human Condition. (* Source: NIMH dot NIH dot GOV, using US Census data)

Stossel combines survey and memoir so engagingly that I occasionally forgot the topic was how unmanageable anxiety had made his life. I like that his presence throughout the book is not intrusive, or worse, pitiable. He does not overwhelm with dry history and there is no hard lobby for a cause or a position. There is humor and authentic humanity here; most importantly, there is also hope.

In the first few pages, Stossel shares that he has known anxiety since the age of 2. Has anything worked? Surprisingly, no, or at least not for any length of time. And in the last pages, he admits that writing this book is in part self-therapy. In between these auspicious pages Stossel covers:

~ ~ ~ the definitive nature of the beast (Is it an illness? A disorder? A conditioned response?
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Raychel on February 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This book could be several books... the author's personal account of anxiety, a clinical account of anxiety, and an historical account of anxiety. Oh and maybe a separate book for the footnotes. The biggest problem I had with this book, is it seemed that the author was trying to do too much within one book. It felt a little messy and jutted back and forth between topics too much and too often.

The author shares his own personal stories of his battle with anxiety. One one hand this is by all means a brave thing to do, especially considering some of the stories he shares. Anyone with anxiety can tell you that 'coming out of the closet' so to speak about anxiety and anxious behaviors can be an incredibly difficult thing to do. On the other hand, the author, in maybe an attempt to poke fun at himself and the bizarre effects his anxiety takes on, perhaps overshares to a point that his own personal accounts start to become awkward and cringe worthy, especially his preoccupations with vomit and crapping himself. Maybe it is because I do not share these anxieties and do not understand them, I am not sure but at certain points I just wanted him to move on instead of spending another 5 pages detailing a phobic reaction that involved more vomit and more poop. In that regard this is also a very selfish book because the author spends more time detailing phobic/anxious reactions that he himself experiences instead of taking on a broader range of anxiety issues. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for readers, I mean this is his book and what he wanted to do, some people will like it and others won't.
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