|This is what the outside looks like at sales conference.|
Sometimes it's better not to look since you'll be in a
conference room all day, all week.
Stossel, the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, has suffered from anxiety his entire life, as have many members of his family going back generations. He was the kid who cried every day of elementary school, the one who threw tennis matches just to get off the court faster, and his fear of vomiting is epic. He's tried many, many combinations of pills, and booze, and pills and booze, and has spent pretty much his whole life with therapists in an attempt to control his panic, fear, and dread. Trying to wrap his head around the condition that has dictated his life for so long, Stossel learned everything he could about anxiety and wrote a book.
Here are some fun tidbits:
- Anxiety could be genetic. There are specific genes now attached to people with anxiety disorders that can be plotted, and frequently anxious parents will have anxious children (even when they are trying to protect their children from the conditions they suffer).
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the broad DSM V (the bible of psychiatric disorders that the docs use to diagnose people) category for people with anxiety, was created after it was discovered that certain medications alleviate panic, so in a sense, the drug created the disease. That's not to say that people weren't anxious before, but they didn't have a diagnosed disorder. They were shy or depressed or "a little off."
- Anxiety has been around forever, and one famous sufferer was Charles Darwin, who hated leaving home, sailing on the ocean, and enclosed spaces. After Darwin completed in famous voyage on the Beagle, he mostly stayed home for the rest of his life. Scientists now look at anxiety as an evolutionary adaptability that helped early people survive when they had more to fear than Zorro attacking in the middle of the night.
- Millions of people take SSRI's, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, the class of drugs that includes Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, etc. The drugs are among the most prescribed ever, but scientists aren't exactly sure how--and even if--they work. The brain is a complicated organ. Nonetheless, millions of people have seen some improvement on the drugs and flipping channels any night of the week will reinforce that we live in the age of psychopharmacology.
|Scott Stossel appeared on The Colbert Report.|
He's afraid of cheese, among other things.
My Age of Anxiety isn't a book with easy solutions to your twitchy issues, but it doesn't try to be that. This book is one man's account of a lifetime of anxiety and everything he learned about the condition, laid out clearly for a non-scientific audience, and with some levity. Stossel's attempt to overcome his fear of vomiting with exposure therapy--basically his therapist getting him to ingest Ipecac--is tragic comedy. Reading the book didn't make the cacophony of cocktail hour chit chat and crowds any easier for me at sales conference, but it did provide perspective. And if anything, people are resilient. Stossel survives in spite of his phobias and has a good job, and as far as I know, I wasn't fired at sales conference.