When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life
David D. Burns
It is very important to note that anxiety is not always pathological. As a matter of fact, anxiety is not usually pathological. While you may not love having it around, anxiety is your body's natural response to stress and is helpful in many ways. If you are going through a break-up or divorce, moving, interviewing for a job, giving a speech, for example, it is natural to have some anxiety around these stressful situations. Self-compassion is key when looking at your anxiety and determining if it feels like a normal and healthy response to your current circumstances, OR if things are generally ok right now and you just can't turn the anxiety off or you are experiencing negative thoughts/beliefs that don't realistically fit your situation. If you are in the latter category, this may be the book for you.
A key premise in beginning to address anxiety, which Dr. Burns does a great job of highlighting in this book, is that there is no scientific agreement on the exact root of anxiety, which, of course, means that there is no one universally agreed upon way to treat it. Anxiety also presents itself in many forms (general anxiety, OCD, social anxiety, body dysmorphia, agoraphobia, etc), and with a variety of possible symptoms (panic attacks, withdrawal, insomnia, racing thoughts, hypervigilance, rumination, etc.). I say this to remind anyone suffering from issues related to anxiety that it is going to take some trial and error to find the treatment path that works best for you, and, possibly, an additional journey to get to the root of what initiated the anxiety in the first place.
It is not unusual to have depressive feelings if you are dealing with a lot of anxious feelings. No one likes feeling anxious, so, of course, being in that state can get you down. Anxiety and depression are often attached at the hip and determined to crash your party, but that also means that managing anxious feelings can also go a long way in alleviating depressive feelings as well.
While it is not the only treatment approach, by any means, CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) is the gold standard treatment method for anxiety. I personally feel that CBT as a stand-alone treatment is typically insufficient to address the full picture, but for many people it can go a long way in relieving symptoms and correcting negative thought processes that are feeding the anxiety.
If CBT is the gold standard of anxiety treatment, this book is the gold standard of self-help in applying CBT principles to your anxious thoughts. In his humorous and relatable stories and explanations, Dr. Burns walks the reader through basic CBT techniques and includes many helpful worksheets that can be printed for the reader to work through as they read. Burns emphasizes throughout the book that, while one technique might not work for you, that's ok; and he then offers another. It is unlikely that every technique presented will resonate with you, but I think most readers dealing with anxiety will find at least a few great takeaways to help manage their symptoms.
Reminder, that some people working on anxiety may also need the support of a therapist and/or the support of a medical doctor or psychiatrist, in addition to, or instead of, the techniques presented in this text. That's ok too! This is just one more tool to add to your toolbox.
"1. You feel the way you think. 2. When you're anxious, you're fooling yourself. Anxiety results from distorted illogical thoughts. It's a mental con. 3. When you change the way you think, you can change the way you feel."
"When you feel anxious, worried, panicky, or afraid, you're telling yourself that you're in danger and that something terrible is about to happen … Once you start to feel anxious, your negative thoughts and feelings begin to reinforce each other in a vicious cycle. The catastrophic thoughts create feelings of anxiety and fear, and these feelings trigger more negative thoughts."
"Shame is also a central feature of anxiety. You may try to hide your symptoms of insecurity or panic, thinking that other people would look down on you or think you were weird if they knew how you really felt inside."
"Anxiety and worry are extremely common, so we end up "pathologizing" people unnecessarily."
"Many people don't understand the difference between a negative thought and an SDB [self-defeating belief]. Your SDBs are always present, but negative thoughts surface only when you're upset."
"… feelings of self-blame, guilt, and inadequacy usually aren't very motivating and don't help me learn from my mistakes. Feelings of shame and guilt simply make me want to cover up my failures because I can't stand to face them. In fact, I do my best work when I'm feeling happy, relaxed, and self-accepting."
"The word "should" comes from the Ango-Saxon word scolde. When you use Should statements, you're really scolding yourself or other people."
On procrastination: "Extremely successful people know that … action comes first and motivation follows. They don't wait around until they "feel" like doing something. They just plow ahead and do it, whether they feel like it or not."