A celebrated science and health reporter offers a wry, bracingly honest account of living with anxiety.
A racing heart. Difficulty breathing. Overwhelming dread. Andrea Petersen was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at the age of twenty, but she later realized that she had been experiencing panic attacks since childhood. With time her symptoms multiplied. She agonized over every odd physical sensation. She developed fears of driving on highways, going to movie theaters, even licking envelopes. Although having a name for her condition was an enormous relief, it was only the beginning of a journey to understand and master it—one that took her from psychiatrists’ offices to yoga retreats to the Appalachian Trail.
Woven into Petersen’s personal story is a fascinating look at the biology of anxiety and the groundbreaking research that might point the way to new treatments. She compares psychoactive drugs to non-drug treatments, including biofeedback and exposure therapy. And she explores the role that genetics and the environment play in mental illness, visiting top neuroscientists and tracing her family history—from her grandmother, who, plagued by paranoia, once tried to burn down her own house, to her young daughter, in whom Petersen sees shades of herself.
Brave and empowering, this is essential reading for anyone who knows what it means to live on edge.
We’ve all felt the pangs of anxiety at different times of our lives. I experienced some horrible anxiety when I moved back from England in my early 30’s. Debilitating and at times extremely life surrendering. I didn’t think I would ever walk through it – it sure hung on. But with therapy, reflection and my own work on myself I kicked those anxious thoughts to the curb.
If you are looking for inspiration towards your own change, I really appreciated ‘On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety’ by Andrea Petersen. It was not only illustrative of what it is like to live with anxiety but how you can help yourself and how a helping professional can potentially help their patients with a clearer lens. To clarify this is not a medical text – but rather an informative read on mental health.
‘She soon realized, she says, that it was yoga, not the talk, which was making her patients better. Now she believes that the body, not the mind, is the key to relieving anxiety and depression.’
I’m a big fan of counselling – well I do it for a living so I’m biased, yes. But sometimes it’s the simple things that you can do to alleviate anxious and depressive symptoms. Indeed it takes work and effort. It can be as easy of going for a walk around the block, getting off at a subway stop before your normal exit point, reading a book in bed or listening to music while creating art.
It can be a slow build and there are loads of opportunity for relapse. I liked that ‘On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety’ by Andrea Petersen keeps it very honest for her readers. There is optimism but strong reality checks throughout the read.
If you need stats and data, ‘On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety’ will satiate you. But it will also provide you with a wonderful read for a trip home from work on the train or a summer read. Yes, a book on anxiety can also be an easy read.