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Memoirs and other first-hand accounts of anxiety can pick up where these leave off, offering much-needed solace and communicating the pain and frustration of the condition in personal terms. With that in mind, here are five titles that can help anyone understand anxiety a little better.
A Brief History of Anxiety…Yours and Mine by Patricia Pearson
Psychiatry isn’t an exact science, and sometimes what works for one person doesn’t work for another. Patricia Pearson was given a prescription for the drug Effexor after she was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. After a series of unpleasant experiences with the medication, she set out to explore the mental health industry, the history of mental illness, and how anxiety has been seen in our culture and others. With an eye set askew toward the accepted wisdom of laymen and professionals alike, Pearson’s memoir turned cultural history will provoke as many questions as it will provide answers.
Relatively rare and often misunderstood, obsessive compulsive disorder is no laughing matter—except when it is. Like a lot of people with OCD, Emily Colas knew that the unshakeable worries and bizarre little rituals consuming her life were abnormal, but she was afraid to get help. She did her best to cover it all up, but eventually it became too much to bear. Her memoir, Just Checking, is a surprisingly funny and insightful look at what happened when it all started to fall apart.
The Meaning of Anxiety by Rollo May
Pioneering existential psychologist Rollo May experienced the weight of anxiety first-hand while receiving treatment for tuberculosis at a sanitorium. His time there led him to believe that anxiety is necessary for personal development, and learning to cope with it leads to healthy self-realization. According to May, anxiety can sharpen our creativity, relieve boredom and keep us from becoming dull and unimaginative. May’s ideas aren’t as well accepted as they were when he introduced them in 1950, but they remain excellent food for thought.
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith
Always a nervous, sensitive kid, Daniel Smith grew into an anxious adult. Monkey Mind is the story of how he came to understand his condition and the ways that it informed his life. Hilariously self-effacing, thought-provoking, and insightful, Smith’s memoir communicates the absurdity and frustration of anxiety in an approachable, enjoyable fashion.
Inspired by his own personal struggles with anxiety, Scott Stossel’s book My Age of Anxiety is a deep dive into the history of an elusive condition and the myriad efforts made at treating it. From the ancient observations of philosophers and pedants to the cutting edge medical breakthroughs behind today’s anti-depressants, My Age of Anxiety covers serious ground in exploring a universal, but poorly understood, condition.