Don’t Panic

Guess what? I found a self-help book about anxiety!

This one is titled: “Don’t Panic: You can overcome anxiety without drugs” and it’s written by Dr Sallee McLaren.

The central thesis is that anxiety is more often the result of ineffective coping strategies acquired through childhood, than from a serotonin imbalance in the brain. Therefore drugs are not a viable treatment and could indeed cause more harm than good. Instead therapy should be used to address and assess the faulty assumptions and negative coping strategies, which lie at the heart of our anxiety.

The book is divided into seven chapters, each one based on a faulty assumption. This list includes:

  1. The world looks dangerous.
  2. Other people are hostile.
  3. I can’t trust myself.
  4. I feel out of control.
  5. I need to stop the pain, now!
  6. I feel powerless.
  7. Deep down, I’m bad.

Most of these assumptions are the result of what Dr McLaren often refers to as difficult backgrounds. Basically it’s your parents fault, you learnt it from them. The cases she employs as examples confirm this pattern of bad parenting, in the evolution of each individuals anxiety and depression. They also explore the steps taken to challenge and conquer them.

I found many of the cases to be quite extreme and therefore unrelatable, the backgrounds sounded truly terrifying and when compared to my own childhood made me feel inadequate. This was in all likelihood not the authors intent, but rather my own biased reading of the text. Yet as she points out, anxiety often makes you biased and resistant to any opinion that requires you to open up and change.

One concept or remedy that did strike a chord with me however, was the link between confidence and skill. That you can increase your confidence by learning and preserving a new skill set. In other words, get out of your comfort zone and take a class. Borrow a library book and teach yourself something. Watch instructional YouTube videos or online tutorials. The more you learn and develop these skills, the more value you will feel you have. Self assurance and confidence occur as a bi-product of a diversified skill set.

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