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on May 20, 2006
It probably sounds somewhat dramatic, but I can only recall two self-help books that had a drastic effect on my life-by giving me a reasonable relief from anxiety and depression. The first one, Mind over Mood, by Greenberger and the second one, Feeling Good Workbook by Dr. Burns. Both of these books are based on solid research, reason and practicality.

Almost 20 years since his workbook, Dr. Burns has finally written another book. To my disappointment and relief, it looks like he has nothing major to report. The good news is that after all these years of cognitive therapy evolution, there are still only 10 types of cognitive distortions. The bad news is that it takes only 10 to manage a perfect job to make you miserable.

Cognitive therapy is based on the premise that our own automatic and often unnoticed thoughts WITHIN us, not the events that happen TO US, scare us to death which in turn create a warped reality providing fertile soil for depression, anxiety, self-doubt, loneliness, and procrastination. Virtually everyone who is depressed or anxious is at mercy of these distorted thoughts. To get a relief, each distorted thought must be noticed and dealt with. As you can't relieve your hunger by just reading a cookbook, you must apply it to your own situation for at least 15 minutes a day 5 days a week. Once learned and practiced, the technique will offer you resilience to life's day-to-day challenges, unlike the antidepressants where the relief exists only while you take them.

Burns lists various applications to become aware, challenge and rewire your thought pattern and beliefs about yourself and the world. There is no magic, no parent-blaming, just common sense stuff dealing with the here-and-now.

What is so valuable here is his clear writing, convincing arguments, along with the examples of application that anyone can find an immediate use.

What sets this book apart from other self-help books is that it's packaged into a system one can use in a consistent way. Moreover, the improvements one feels can actually be measured with various tests that Burns provides. Once I saw it worked after many years of doom and suffering, I refocused and dared to feel hopeful. This added to my feeling good.

If I were to find faults with this book, I'd say this: in all honesty, there really was no need for this book at all. True, in this book he struggles to find some new ways to tackle problems to justify the new edition, and true, there is some fine-tuning of the previous methods, however, non-essential ones. In my opinion, Feeling Good Workbook is so effective, it has all you'll ever need, which is enough to make a substantial change.

In the end, each Burn's book can stand on its own, and will do a perfect job to diminish panic, depression and anxiety.

Even though the system sounds simplistic, its power lies in consistency of application-easier said than done for the depressed and unmotivated-but it does become easier if you find it within yourself to stick with it.

If this is pretty much the same book as the one written 20 years ago, why am I giving it 5 stars? It's very simple: If you are a person whose life has been robbed of feeling good for decades, any of Dr. Burns' books = be it this one or the ones published 20 years ago-offers a real tool for change. And this fact alone, deserves all the stars in the skies.
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on February 1, 2007
Dr. Burns incorporates the last 25 years of research and clinical developments since writing the best-seller FEELING GOOD (strongly recommended as well.) He has written a book which markedly refines and elaborates on FEELING GOOD, rendering the Cognitive Therapy approach found in FEELING GOOD even more effective for quick and long-term relief from distressing emotional conditions, including depression, anxiety, anger, and low-self esteem.

In case you don't know, the book FEELING GOOD has been clinically proven to relieve major depression JUST FROM READING IT and following its instructions. I am confident that a clinical trial on WHEN PANIC ATTACKS would yield similar results for individuals suffering from anxiety disorders. The new book is very readable and far more versatile, and addresses some of the implicit gaps left from the former book.

WHEN PANIC ATTACKS easily stands on its own, and doesn't just address panic attacks, but rather every conceivable type of anxiety, including chronic worrying, phobias, agoraphobia, shyness, public speaking anxiety, writer's block, procrastination, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. As far as I am concerned, Dr. Burns should win a Nobel Prize for what he has accomplished here. Beginning with the "Daily Mood Log" --a sophisticated yet elegantly simple worksheet for documenting and combating one's emotional pain-- he has developed a veritable "technology" for overcoming even the most disabling of human emotions.

Why do we suffer? We suffer because we hold onto some core self-defeating beliefs (SDB's) that leave us rather vulnerable to painful mood swings. Accordingly, he identifies 23 common SDB's. Many of these SDB's (such as Achievement Addiction, Approval Addiction, Fear of Rejection, Conflict Phobia, and Emotophobia) are far more widespread than even the common cold! All of our emotional suffering can be traced back to the SDB's that are always there, lurking somewhat hidden beneath our suffering, until we take the courageous and pro-active step to identify and revise them. He then provides 40 ways to "untwist" your thinking, divided into 15 types of methods. These types of techniques include Uncovering Techniques, Compassion-Based Techniques, Truth-Based Techniques, Semantic Techniques, Logic-Based, Quantitative Techniques, Humor-Based Techniques, Role-Playing Techniques, Spiritual Techniques, Motivational Techniques, Anti-Procrastination Techniques, Classical, Cognitive, and Interpersonal Exposure Techniques, and last but not least, the Hidden Emotion Model.

He additionally shows you how to select the techniques that will work best for YOU, and the whole trial-and-error process is easily recorded onto another handy-dandy worksheet! By encouraging you to "fail as fast as you can" (a brilliant concept in its own right!), he clearly demonstrates how anyone who is serious about their mental health and overall well-being can overcome even deep-seated emotional problems, and thereby attain robust self-esteem. He even provides specific and simple methods for "relapse prevention," because, as he states, EVERYONE relapses! Surely there's a BIG difference between FEELING better and GETTING better.

Because Thoreau was correct when he said, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," I think it would be a tragedy to limit this book to those with mental health diagnoses. In fact, I cannot think of a single individual who would not be significantly helped by the information contained in this book. ********** 10 Stars on a scale of 5!
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on October 2, 2007
As someone who struggled with panic attacks for over 25 years, I have read a lot of books about anxiety. I now plan to get rid of all of the others! I read Dr. Burns' Feeling Good at my lowest point last year and it was a lifeline for me. That book focuses more on depression, and while some of the information in it applied to anxiety, I kept wishing he would write a book specifically on anxiety. This book has advice and exercises for every type of anxiety. Whether you have job performance anxiety, social anxiety, fear of riding in elevators or having blood drawn, the tools you need to overcome your fears are in here.

The key is--and Dr. Burns reinforces this point--you have to do the exercises in order to feel better. This means actually writing your answers on paper. It also means, in many cases, facing your fears. His methods combine exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. His words are warm and humorous, and you will feel supported as you break down barriers you may have built up for years.

Dr. Burns has improved my life immeasurably. I, and all of my loved ones who have had to suffer along with me for so many years, are grateful! Buy this book and try the exercises.
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on May 27, 2009
I've been a fan of Dr. Burns for a long time because he explains cognitive behavioral therapy/theory (CBT) so well and has plenty of techniques for using it. The main idea is that the way we think strongly influences how we feel and sometimes, how we act. When we can change our distorted ways of thinking, the door opens to greater happiness and satisfaction. Of course, when the door opens, you have to go through it, that is, you have to practice the techniques to gain the benefits.

Although I like his Feeling Good books, I like "When Panic Attacks" more because the writing is better. It flows more and is funny in places. It has much of the same material as in his earlier books, so you can benefit either way. This one is just easier to read.
Although CBT has helped me with depression and anxiety, it helped me A LOT with anger. Once I really accepted that no one died and made me queen, and that I didn't need to waste energy on trivial annoyances, I became calmer and easier to get along with and that has been a huge thing for me.
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on January 12, 2015
One of my patients actually bought this book before I did -- he was already reading it when he was referred to me to assist him with panic disorder. Panic Disorder is one of the more easily resolved mental health problems a person can have. Usually, once they understand that panic arises from one of the bodies most useful processes -- the fight, flight, or freeze reflex needed to save our lives when we are in a dangerous situation -- they are already halfway to a cure. This reflex becomes a disorder when one misinterprets something in the environment, or a bodily sensation, as being dangerous or potentially deadly. That "thing" could be a little flip-flop of the heart, or low blood sugar.

The misinterpretation of the event causes the body to go into action sending more blood to major muscle groups so one can either run away really fast from the danger, provide the strength needed to fight the threat, or the ability to freeze so maybe you won't be noticed. However, when there is really no threat, what goes on in the body to prepare one to run fast, punch harder, etc., -- increased heart rate, faster breathing, etc. -- can be misinterpreted as "I'm dying" or "I'm going to pass out". If one is in a public space, the thought of passing out in front of strangers just increases the panic.

As the fear of panic attacks in public spaces grows, the person may become more avoidant until, one day, s/he decides it's better to just stay home. Now, it's diagnosable as a Panic Disorder. Eventually, s/he avoids going out at all.

So, the disorder is based on a phantom -- fear. Dr. Burns' book explains all this and more... and provides useful exercises for curing the disorder. Bonus? The cost of this book is probably less than one copay to see a qualified psychotherapist!
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on March 21, 2013
I purchased this book because, needless to say, I suffer from panic attacks and thought that this book may be more beneficial to me than medications and/or visiting a shrink. I found it to be the biggest waste of time and money ever.

What bothered me the most was the collection of stories (whether fictional or not) that Dr. Burns shares in this book. Not only did the excessive amount of examples outweigh the discussion of techniques to alleviate attacks, but could barely relate to people with significant phobias/triggers. The majority of people who suffer from panic disorder possess more substantial fears than spiders and heights. When we're consumed by an overwhelming fear of death, for instance, we are not going to profit from reading a story about Jim, the attorney who fears losing a case.

I was really hopeful that this book could potentially cause me to question my methods of thinking and provide me with some relaxation techniques. Naturally, I was let down. This book should have been (more suitably) titled "An Extensive History of Dr. Burns' Career and his Clientele". While I don't doubt the author's success as a therapist, I find his book absolutely useless.
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on March 28, 2011
Recovering addicts are often urged to HALT, that is, avoid feeling hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. That's all true, but I've found that I also have to avoid feeling DRAB: depressed, resentful, anxious, and bored. I've learned how to deal with boredom, resentments, and depression, but not anxiety. I've been having problems with that one, until now. I've found a book that thoroughly explains the causes of my anxiety and gives me techniques, forty to be exact, to help defeat my fears. It's called "When Panic Attacks" by David D. Burns.

When I was a teenager, I was painfully shy. Now I know this was a result of several self-defeating beliefs, which Dr. Burns lists in his book. When I first took a couple of Percodan at nineteen, I thought, Wow, this is the answer to my problem. I'd already found that alcohol did the same thing, but of course it came with too many side effects like slurred speech, staggering, and other general ass-making properties. However, the Percodan, and all the other opiates, made me feel perfect, at peace. Well, at first anyway. I could still function completely, no one could tell I was high, and there were no nasty hangovers. And that's what my drug use was all about - regulating my emotions. Anxiety, boredom, and depression were my mortal enemies and had to be obliterated at all costs.

Dr. Burns presents four theories about the cause of anxiety. The cognitive model is based on the idea that our negative thoughts cause anxiety. The exposure model states that avoidance of fears creates anxiety. The hidden emotion model is the belief that anxiety is the result of negative feelings, such as anger, that we are afraid to express. And the one Dr. Burns disagrees with is the biological model, which is based on the idea that anxiety is a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.

The drug cartels, oops, I mean pharmaceutical companies, make billions of dollars annually from the sale of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications by promoting the chemical imbalance theory, even though studies have shown that these drugs work no better than a placebo. Unfortunately, I've been on several of these medications: Prozac, Serzone, Effexor, Paxil, and more. In my experience, proper diet, plenty of exercise, and healthy sleep habits work a hundred times better for depression. For anxiety, these medications haven't helped me at all.

One of my big fears is public speaking. So I tested Dr. Burns' exposure model techniques by taking a public speaking course. They work. And I can't wait to try the shame attacking exercises for social phobias and anxiety. Dr Albert Ellis, who invented them, gives an award every year to the most outrageous and creative shame attacking exercise. One recent winner went into a busy drug store and loudly requested four dozen condoms...in the little teenie-weenie size.

As we get older, most of us find ourselves saying, "If I only knew then what I know now." Well, I wish I knew the information in "When Panic Attacks" a long time ago. I chose the wrong way to deal with my negative emotions, because I didn't know there was a better, easier, legal way to do so. Now I know.

David Allan Reeves
Author of "Running Away From Me"
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on August 19, 2008
The information and techniques presented in this book changed my life in a profound way. Not only have I become a FAR less anxious individual in general, but I have the tools to combat every type of mood swing imaginable. My self esteem is at heights I could have never imagined. Whether you panic left and right, have mild anxiety, or are simply a human being, I GUARANTEE this book is worth your time. This is the real stuff: researched based and tested over and over again.

Also, while I agree that a lot of this information is the same that has appeared in Burns' older classics "Feeling Good" and the "Feeling Good Handbook" I do find that it is presented in a more organized, easy to digest format that is focused on anxiety instead of depression. Despite containing the same underlying theories, it has expansions, re-organizations, and specifics that I feel easily make it a worthwhile addition to the Burns catalog.

I, obviously, wholeheartedly and passionately recommend this book for ANYONE.
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on July 31, 2009
As someone who has struggled with anxiety for many years, I cannot reccommend this book enough. I'm in my early 20s and have already been on and off medication/therapy for years. When I started to feel like I was losing control I decided to take matters into my own hands and this book has helped me tremendously.

One thing of note: do not get this book unless you are serious about getting to the root of your problems and willing to work to feel better. It requires you to examine your thoughts and feelings and complete exercises that will help you think and feel better.

It is great for those looking for real change. For people looking for some magical cure without putting in any effort: look elsewhere.
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on June 17, 2012
While the book does contain some good ideas and techniques, Dr. Burn's references to his patients in support of his techniques are just too simplistic and a bit unrealistic. Are we really to believe that June, suffering from anxiety and panic for over 50 years believing that she would snap and go crazy is miracuously "cured" in one session by rolling on the floor and "acting out" crazy...that simply understanding you can't drive yourself crazy by "pretending" to be crazy is all it takes to put 50 years of suffering to rest? Perhaps my favorite is Kim and her phobia of bridges. One woman (even if she's overweight) stomping her feet on a bridge suddenly believes that bridges are not fragile??? Really?! Anyone who has been experiencing anxiety and panic attacks knows that there's much more involved in dealing, and overcoming, this suffering. Also, don't waste your money downloading it to your Kindle or Nook....there are way too many charts and forms that you will need (some you can find on the internet)... Spend the extra $$ and get a hard copy if you are going to try his techniques.
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