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My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind (Vintage) [Kindle Edition]

Scott Stossel
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (254 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $27.95
Kindle Price: $11.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

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 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.

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

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
157 of 166 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Philosophical Debate of Anxiety 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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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough, fascinating, and a great read December 15, 2013
By Joanna
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Who knew that Freud, Darwin, Gandhi and Moses all suffered what could be viewed as anxiety disorders at times? Or that many other great achievers did as well, including Harvard deans and the Atlantic editor who wrote this tome? If you dread public speaking, suffer nervous stomach, obsess over phobias, or hail from a family of worriers, "My Age of Anxiety" might very well make you feel better. The author has been through all of that plus a hundred times more, including losing bowel control at the Kennedy Compound one weekend when he was conducting interviews and getting raw sewage all over their guest bathroom, its rug, and himself. He grew up with a morbid fear of vomiting and, lucky for us readers, exceptional powers of self expression and research. The book chronicles his own life struggles and study of anxiety and is both highly readable and tremendously informative, just like an award-winning Atlantic article on the subject would be.

No matter how much you've read about anxiety, this is likely to offer something more either in the very moving and often stunning personal account or the thoughtful analysis and detail. The book excels in what it covers, mainly the medical model and treatment of anxiety and Mr. Stossel's own hellish experiences. Where it falls somewhat short is in providing enough information on how a man so encumbered by intrusive symptoms and insecurities could manage to excel at Harvard and become a successful editor of a national magazine.

There's also not much on the benefits of exercise, mindfulness meditation, self compassion, or dialectical behavior therapy, and I'd like to see the author delve into these more, as he has other treatments, and report back, both for his own sake and for ours.
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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and insightful January 11, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have a very dear friend, my best friend actually, who has made claims forever about the debilitating anxiety that she endures every morning. A brilliant woman, an Ivy League grad school graduate, yet she almost can't get out of bed because it overwhelms her. I have, on occasion, had what I consider very high anxiety. But it doesn't get me often and it doesn't keep me the way that it seems to grab hold of my friend and the author of this book, Stossel.

I read this book with great interest. It was engaging and it helped me better understand (and believe) what happens to my girlfriend and others. I never truly believed it could be this bad, I mean how can she have managed to come so far if it was truly all of that? This book has shown me otherwise with the great many very successful people who have suffered from the same thing. I found that one of the more inspiring things about the book.

The book, in addition to enlightening me to the world of people like my friend and Stossel, also kept me amused. The humor so reminded me of the humor with which my friend explains her similar problems.

I really enjoyed this book. It was extremely well written and entertaining. I have passed it along to my previously mentioned friend. Although she won't find cures or answers, she might take some comfort in the good company.

This book is highly recommended for anyone suffering with anxiety or who loves someone who is.

**update** when I told my friend about giving her this book to read, she was extremely excited. She is seeing Scott Stossel at some speaking engagement next week in Hollywood. She had heard about this book and his story on NPR and immediately told me "He has the same crippling anxieties I do. My shrink told me to read his book!" So apparently this book is shrink and NPR recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Informative, on both personal and informational levels
Published 3 days ago by sarah
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 days ago by stephen allen
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing look at a terrifying condition, by a brave author
This author is a very brave individual. He lays bare his agonizing life-long history of anxiety, and in the process, I'm sure he has helped countless sufferers who are either... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Les
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected.
Bought for a son who has been fighting anxiety about flying for some years. I hoped it would give him some new angles/viewpoints to look at the problem. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Sheila
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
I could not connect
Published 12 days ago by Jim Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply a treasure; a journey in understanding Anxiety Disorder
[For a more detailed review, visit: anafichesdelectures(dot)wordpress(dot)com]

This is the first book I was interested enough to read on Anxiety Disorder. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Hdz Ana
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough coverage on the topic of anxiety
The author provides a thorough coverage of anxiety - it's definition, history, symptoms and treatments. His first hand experience adds credibility to the book. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling
This is engaging and informative. Using the framework of his personal experience, Stossel covers the "invention" of anxiety disorders diagnoses, as well as medications and... Read more
Published 22 days ago by another reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I enjoyed reading the many examples the author provides of anxiety attacks, how he felt, an what he did to cope. Read more
Published 23 days ago by hcc0530
5.0 out of 5 stars The actual explanation of everything
I heard a part of an interview with Scott Stossel on the radio and made sure that I found the pod cast and then looked for the book online. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Bruce
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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.


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