My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel

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My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Stossel candidly describes his personal struggle with anxiety and his attempts to overcome it, including CBT, drugs and various forms of therapy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: January 2014
Publisher: William Heinemann
ISBN: 9780434019144

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Scott Stossel is anxious. There are no two ways about it. He has been anxious for as long as he can remember, with dark recollections of his turbulent childhood, much of which seems to have been spent nervously gazing out of the window wondering whether his parents were coming home or if they had died in a terrible accident. Then of course, there was the sister who was very possibly an adult midget who had been trained to play the part of a five-year-old girl helping her colleagues (his parents) perform experiments on him before abandoning him. Clearly Stossel’s anxiety has been fuelled by a rather active imagination over the years.

To illustrate the point further, he relates the time when his Cognitive Behaviour therapist asked him to write a worst-case scenario to prove that reality is never as bad as we imagine it to be. She described the resulting document as the most negative thing she had ever read. By means of many similarly humorous anecdotes, Stossel gives us a no-holds-barred glimpse into his very private world, where even the most simple of tasks can have him reaching for a cocktail of drugs and vodka to temporarily numb the pain. It feels a little voyeuristic at times and I have to guiltily confess that my favourite story included a Mr Bean moment involving a leaky toilet, a frantic dash for safety and Stossel being literally caught with his pants down in front of a rather distinguished house guest.

There is more to the book than personal stories, however. Stossel writes a well thought out, in-depth analysis of the history of anxiety disorders in modern times. He also discusses the link between the pharmaceutical industry and the rise in anxiety disorders over the years. Interestingly, he points out that since the invention of antidepressants, the incidence of depression has increased by 1000 percent. Coincidence? Surely not.

There are also some thought-provoking chapters on the nature-versus-nurture debate, with statistics and hard facts interspersed with Stossel’s own personal experiences and thoughts on the subject. For those who doubt that anxiety has a genetic predisposition, Stossel provides some sobering examples from his own family that may suggest the opposite, including the fact that his own children seem to be developing the same phobias and neuroses as him, despite his stringent efforts to prevent it from happening.

My Age of Anxiety covers every aspect of the subject of anxiety disorder but manages to entertain the reader whilst doing so. Stossel is a charming, erudite and likeable narrator who, despite his many problems has gone on to have a successful career and a happy marriage. His candid approach to the subject of mental health is refreshing and will strike a chord with many readers. Even those who do not suffer from this type of affliction will come away with a deeper understanding and empathy for those who find themselves crippled by anxiety disorder.

If you enjoyed this book, you may like How to Keep Calm and Carry On by Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman and The Anxiety-Elimination System by Nicos Nicolaou.

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Buy My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel at


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