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"What if that happened? What then? What are you really afraid of?"--Technique to identify the source of anxiety
on October 20, 2008
"When Panic Attacks" is mainly a collection of case studies that demonstrate different ways to identify and conquer various sources of anxiety. I have never read David Burns's book "Feeling Good," which is mentioned several times in this 3-CD set, but from reading other reviews, some case studies and ideas from that book may be repeated here.
Disc 1 discusses the cognitive model for combating anxiety. In this model it is explained that you feel the way you think, that anxiety stems from distorted, illogical thoughts, and when you change the way you think, you can change the way you feel. One technique used in the case studies, is to keep asking one's self that, if a certain anxiety-provoking event occurs, what would happen? The point in this technique is to get to the source of the anxiety. Another technique used is the exposure model where one submerges one's self in the activity or experience that causes anxiety.
I found it humorous how so many of the case studies involved the higher echelon of society (I guess people who could afford therapy). A highly-successful attorney suffers from constant worry he might eventually lose a case. A biology teacher and 5-time Teacher of the Year is afraid of becoming a father, especially after attacking a burrito (yes, you read that right). Then there is a hunk who can't get a date because he is self-conscious about his body odor. On disc 2, we hear about a top student pilot who is afraid his friends will look down on him if he doesn't ace his exams. There is the woman who once suffered from panic attacks who ends up writing a novel. Even David Burns had to overcome his fear of blood when he was a medical student.
Disc 2 was my favorite because of the case study where a woman who suffered from panic attacks agreed to have an attack induced by Dr. Burns so he could observe her and convince her she was not in a life-threatening situation. I enjoyed listening to this story and have skipped to that track (#4) many times. This disc explains self-defeating beliefs, the downward arrow technique which is similar to the "what if?" method, shame-attacking exercises, the acceptance paradox, and cognitive flooding (visualizing your worst fears). It also covers obsessive compulsive disorders but I didn't think this part was very helpful. Basically, it says to just resist the urge and it will eventually go away. Somehow, I think it is probably a little more difficult than that.
Disc 3 gives more examples of obsessive compulsive disorders and cognitive flooding. It also introduces the idea of feared fantasy, where an imaginary critic (sometimes created through role-playing) rips you apart and your job is to defend yourself. Another case study considers a shy person helped by practicing smiling and saying "hello." The putting it all together summary takes on the case of a woman who has everything but becomes obsessed with a perceived scar on her nose. Every technique discussed on the CDs was used to help this lady. The lady in this case actually made me more mad than anything and I thought an appropriate treatment for her was a good butt-kicking. I usually skip this case study.
While this CD-set will not directly cover every listener's problem, it will give techniques and examples that can be used on many sources of anxiety. I enjoy listening to this CD-set and hearing the different stories. It has become part of my regular rotation of anxiety CDs I listen to when I need a little help getting through some bouts of anxiety. I recommend it.