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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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*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
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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I doubt the book could have been nearly so convincing or educational had his amazingly personal, embarrassing and painful experience been left out and the evidence presented as a dispassionate survey of the literature.
Stossel has done sufferers a great service.