A comprehensive book looks at the science of acute anxiety—and possible new approaches to treatment.
Manning (CBT Diary and Worksheets, 2017, etc.) is the son of two efficient, hardworking Irish immigrants to Britain who rose to positions of power in their professions. But, according to the author, they were stymied when it came to parenting a son who was hesitant, introverted, and, from an early age, prone to periods of depression. Manning sketches in his autobiography in quick, economical strokes and skillfully uses it to ground the broader inquiry he and Ridgeway (Think About Your Thinking, 2009) conduct into the causes, nature, and possible treatments for panic attacks, which they describe briefly as “a whole-body response to perceived threat or danger.” The key word being “perceived”—the authors point out that one of the many cruel ironies of panic attacks is that they happen in the absence of any actual danger, producing the whole range of physiological and psychological symptoms that would be provoked in a genuine crisis. The amygdala fires repeatedly in the brain; the stomach contracts out of fear; the bowels tighten; the brain goes into a state of irrational hyperalertness; and the individual has little or no control over any of it. The authors make the unsubstantiated but surely correct assertion that far more people undergo panic attacks than anybody knows, since most sufferers probably avoid the associated stigma by refusing to report the incidents. Those secret victims—and their loved ones—should find the authors’ breakdown of the specific causes of fear and anxiety invaluable reading. And they may take comfort from the subsequent lucid discussion of cognitive behavioral therapy, a method of dealing with panic attacks that encourages sufferers to analyze the precise steps and timing of what’s happening to them through a variety of approaches. The authors’ wise choice to avoid hypertechnical professional jargon makes their book immediately accessible to the people who need it the most.
A thorough and quietly encouraging manual on the causes and containment of panic attacks.