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My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  4,526 Ratings  ·  544 Reviews
A riveting, revelatory, and moving account of the author’s struggles with anxiety, and of the history of efforts by scientists, philosophers, and writers to understand the condition
As recently as thirty-five years ago, anxiety did not exist as a diagnostic category. Today, it is the most common form of officially classified mental illness. Scott Stossel gracefully guide
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Knopf (first published December 31st 2013)
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Will Byrnes
Scott Stossel has a problem, anxiety. Big-time. Had it all his life. Think decades of therapy of the talk and chemical varieties. But, he has also had a successful career as a journalist, and is currently the editor of the Atlantic magazine.
Anxiety, when it’s not debilitating, can bring with it certain gifts: a heightened awareness of your environment; more sensitive social antennae; a general prudence about risk-taking; a spur toward achievement. The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard believed that
Oct 15, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it
This is perhaps the best book on anxiety I've ever read. For one, Stossel suffers from anxiety (in many forms) and has done so for most of his life, so he knows first hand what it is like to have one or more anxiety disorders. Further, thanks to mastery of an investigative reporter skill set, he researched the dickens out of anxiety, from its potential neurological, social, environmental, ad infinitum causes and summarizes these causes in a very readable and understandable way. He also talks abo ...more
Julie Christine
I heard Scott Stossel interviewed on WHYY's Fresh Air with Terry Gross in early January (here, have a listen: Terry Gross Interviews Scott Stossel and I immediately put My Age of Anxiety on reserve at the library. This calm, articulate, engaging writer touched my heart. So much so that I had an anxiety attack while walking and listening to the Fresh Air podcast.

Reading this book led me to the beginning of a few more. I had to set the book aside, get out of bed on a few occasions, and work my he
Jan 06, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing
I don't talk about it to any great lengths around here, but I've struggled with anxiety and depression in different ways and at different levels of intensity since I was a teenager. It largely went unaddressed -- and though I struggled, I thought was mostly doing okay not addressing it -- until the summer I turned 26. That’s when I had a full-scale meltdown that rendered me, essentially, a non-functional human being for the better part of two years. Only a few of my closest friends and two thera ...more
I need to think about this book some more. My first reaction is that I didn't really like it, but I'm struggling with articulating why, and I haven't quite figured out if that's mostly just frustration with the author for seeing the same therapist for 25 years with little positive result, or if there's more to it than that.

Ok, I think I've figured it out. The author inserts himself into the narrative as a case study, but he actually does a very poor job of discussing his treatment in the con
Apr 09, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook, own
I highly recommend this book to anyone who suffers from anxiety and related conditions like phobias, depression, panic attacks, etc.
Jun 06, 2017 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Funny, full of fascinating historical, medical and psychological bits and bobs and, as someone who has struggled with anxiety all his life, and has been having a really shitty time of it the last few months, unexpectedly helpful.
Jan 11, 2014 Mtejeda rated it it was amazing
If you have an anxiety or panic disorder or know someone who does, read this book. The author exhaustively researched the history, genetics, and role of "nurture" of anxiety. Up until perhaps 25 years ago, anxiety was not considered a real condition (ask any psychiatrist who has been practicing for many years) and was called by many other names such as "hysteria" and "neurosis". If you have anxiety, the information is priceless and the author's own memoir contributions about his own anxiety is c ...more
Sarah Novak
Jan 06, 2014 Sarah Novak rated it liked it
I didn't dislike "My Age of Anxiety," but I found it frustrating. Scott Stossel is a good journalist as well as a life-long anxiety sufferer. He brings together research from science & humanities and weaves it together with his own experience as a patient. Theoretically, I like this kind of book, but empirically, I don't think it worked here. I enjoyed "The Noonday Demon" and "The Happiness Hypothesis," which cover similar territory. Stossel's book is good as a sweeping/meandering overview o ...more
Diane S ☔
Sep 02, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
3.5. The author has suffered from anxiety for most of his life, as did his mother before him. He definitely knows what he is talking about and this is a well researched book. What I found very surprising is that there are so many different definitions of anxiety that even the experts do not agree on this or the treatment. As well as family background and personal stories, the author includes many interesting factions on phobias and the famous people who had some strange ones. Also, some famous p ...more
Julie Ehlers
I’m not entirely sure what drew me to My Age of Anxiety. Although I did go through a period of anxiety a couple years back, it was thankfully relatively brief and mild, so reading an entire book about the subject was probably not essential in my case. Regardless, this book was extremely informative on the topic, comprising both a history of anxiety under its various names and guises, and a personal memoir of Scott Stossel’s ongoing struggle with the disorder. Some of this was really interesting ...more
Sep 09, 2014 Audrey rated it really liked it
This is a scrupulously researched, historically sweeping, and deeply personal examination of a--what? disease? aberration? normal part of our humanity?--that afflicts an increasing percentage of the population.

I picked it up because I, too, have been afflicted, though not in nearly so devastating way as Scott Stossel. The book is part memoir, part sociological study, and part cultural treatise. Stossel doesn't hold back in revealing his own struggle with anxiety from the age of eleven. But his
Nov 15, 2013 LibraryReads rated it it was amazing
Shelves: december-2013
“Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, has written an all-encompassing treatise on the condition of anxiety, one of the most pervasive yet most misunderstood human conditions. Stossel not only recounts the history of the condition itself, its causes, and its treatment, but bravely relates his own lifelong battle with anxiety. Sits well alongside other works on mental health like Daniel B. Smith’s Monkey Mind and Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon, and highly recommended for anyone who struggles ...more
Leah Rachel
May 21, 2017 Leah Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind with some anxiety that this book about anxiety would make me anxious. But I also hoped that Scott Stossel’s part-memoir, part-history-of-anxiety would provide me with some insights into the mental illness that follows me around my life, with its dread and catastrophizing. While I did feel that some things were lacking or left out from this book, Stossel’s book taught me a lot I didn’t know about anxiety, the way scient ...more
I bought this book impulsively with my birthday book token, having opened it in the shop and read that one of author’s main anxiety symptoms is emetophobia (fear of vomiting). Since I also experience this and had never read mention of it elsewhere, this was curiously reassuring. Indeed, if you suffer from anxiety, this book is a curious mixture of worrying and calming. On the one hand, Stossel has an especially severe manifestation of anxiety and recounts many other horrifying case studies as we ...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Mar 13, 2015 Meg - A Bookish Affair rated it really liked it
"My Age of Anxiety" is part memoir, part exploration on what anxiety is and its history. Anxiety affects many people and is often hidden. I saw Scott Stossel speak at the 2014 Gaithersburg book Festival and he was speaking about his book my age of anxiety. His talk really hit home for me because I also deal with anxiety on a daily basis. It's not particularly fun but through this book it so that helped me understand what was going on a little bit more.

As I said, this book is part memoir and par
Apr 05, 2014 Laura rated it it was ok
This is a long book. Perhaps too long to really hold my attention but there is no doubting it is very well researched.

The parts I found most interesting were whether anxiety is genetic or inherited. Like the author, I can trace anxiety back in my family and it has manifested itself in the next generation. When the author talked about how his own young children were showing early signs, that did strike a chord with me as same thing has happened with one of my children.

The author is American and h
Jan 07, 2014 Kita rated it really liked it
I heard Scott Stossel on NPR and he was so funny and intelligent and articulate that I immediately wanted to read his book. In many ways, Stossel is a hot mess - and he bravely writes about his experiences here. (And I mean bravely. He is brutally honest about his anxiety.) He is afraid of cheese, vomiting, and airplanes, along with numerous other things. Despite his struggles, he's the editor of the Atlantic and this book is a well-researched, well-written and compelling account of both his own ...more
Dan Harris
Mar 03, 2014 Dan Harris rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, important, and beyond brave. Bravo.
Mar 09, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it
In short, I have since the age of about two been a twitchy bundle of phobias, fears, and neuroses. And I have, since the age of ten, when I was first taken to a mental hospital for evaluation and then referred to a psychiatrist for treatment, tried in various ways to overcome my anxiety.

Here’s what I’ve tried: individual psychotherapy (three decades of it), family therapy, group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), rational emotive therapy (RET), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT),
John Braine
I have a history with anxiety disorders / social phobia to the degree that I was out of work for a year in my twenties, and went to a mental health clinic 5 days a week. It took many years to get back to some kind of normality. I still suffer from anxiety. But I've just learned to deal with it and accept it. Or sometimes I keep it hidden, sometimes not. I also now have a daughter with another form of anxiety called selective mutism. Despite all that, I didn't seek this book out. It just popped u ...more
Jan 28, 2014 Leila rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this, and I read only a little non-fiction of the Malcolm Gladwell/Bill Bryson/pop science variety. My one main criticism is that the author beats his own issues so relentlessly into your head that you are left incredulous a) that such a profoundly disabled and neurotic soul could have the wherewithal to accomplish anything at all let alone have a major career b) suspicious that perhaps the reason he has never been able to "cure" or at least mitigate his own anxieties (which ar ...more
Carlos Rivera
Feb 07, 2015 Carlos Rivera rated it it was amazing
I truly recommend this book it's simple I know about depression and even more about anxiety I am living with it everyday. Sometimes it's hard to explain to people what you have or feel so after reading this book I just have to give them a copy or tell them to read it. Sometimes I was reading and it was me, any person that deals with anxiety knows what I'm taking about and this book is a true example a living one and it's so great writing that I was just angry I did not write it myself :)
Some peo
May 04, 2015 Daphne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very thorough and extremely well-researched, so much so that I underlined passages every few pages and filled it with sticky bookmarks. Very informative for anyone who suffers from or knows people who suffer from anxiety, covering historical, philosophical, social, psychological, medical and scientific aspects. It took time to finish because I had to leave it and come back to it a couple of times (some parts feel very close to home). In any case, it is a fascinating read.
Morgan Blackledge
Aug 06, 2014 Morgan Blackledge rated it really liked it
This book is good. Really good. But in full disclosure, I'm following my read of it with a book that is so spectacularly good that it's rather unfairly tainting my recollection of this one.

This analogy will date me circa Stone Age. But It's like writing a review of a Donavan performance after seeing Dylan (circa 1967). Just because Donavan is an inferior bard, doesn't make him without merit in his own right. But geez he sure is lame in comparison. This analogy may be an even bigger fail, becaus
Albert Stern
Mar 07, 2014 Albert Stern rated it liked it
As a proud DSM-IV-TR #300.02, I was eager to read this one. It's a very comprehensive exploration of the subject, from historical accounts to current thinking. He has a very good sense of how much detail is the right amount, which I as a reader appreciate above all else in this kind of book. However, what I don't appreciate as a reader is the footnoting. Virtually every page has a footnote, which is very distracting. While he's a good, clear writer, he is a poor storyteller. A better storyteller ...more
Feb 12, 2014 JanB rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-books
In an age when we spend billions of dollars on psychotropic drugs, the title of this book drew me in. The author himself has lived with crippling anxiety since childhood and his history, along with personal anecdotes, treatments, and therapies are included in the book (often amusingly), along with a vast amount of research into anxiety disorders. Nature vs nurture and genetics is covered along with the history of the disorder and how the definition has changed over the years. Some of the most in ...more
Jennifer Hughes
God bless Scott Stossel for laying his heart open here for the world to see--like televised emotional open-heart surgery.

I've been enjoying The Atlantic for a couple of years now and appreciate Stossel's excellent work there as editor. Reading his article last month that was excerpted from this book is what made me pick this up at the library. I think the article was the better length for me, though, because although I am interested in the topic of social anxiety, and Stossel is an excellent wr
Mar 06, 2014 Abby rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, psychology
I am an anxious person, but I am not as anxious as Scott Stossel. (There is some perverse joy in discovering a person who shares your affliction and then discovering that they have it much worse than you do.) Depravity and lack of empathy aside, this is a great book. Part-memoir, part-history of psychosis, "My Age of Anxiety" is an engaging and thoroughly readable account of the disorder that seems to afflict almost everyone in the 21st century. Stossel discussed nearly everything I wanted him t ...more
Scott Goldman
Mar 21, 2014 Scott Goldman rated it it was amazing
A MUST READ for anyone who has anxiety or knows someone who does! I have learned SO MUCH from this distillation of history, philosophy, and scientific research into the subject of anxiety. The author bravely shares his own personal experiences with anxiety, which brought the subject to life. Because of my own history with anxiety I could relate to much of what was discussed in this book and it made me feel better knowing I was in no way alone struggling with these issues. This book taught me to ...more
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MHA Niagara County: Persisting through anxiety 1 6 Jul 28, 2015 10:26AM  
good 2 32 Dec 04, 2014 04:05AM  
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“To some people, I may seem calm. But if you could peer beneath the surface, you would see that I'm like a duck--paddling, paddling, paddling.” 27 likes
“for the existentialists, what generated anxiety was not the godlessness of the world, per se, but rather the freedom to choose between God and godlessness. Though freedom is something we actively seek, the freedom to choose generates anxiety. “When I behold my possibilities,” Kierkegaard wrote, “I experience that dread which is the dizziness of freedom, and my choice is made in fear and trembling.” Many people try to flee anxiety by fleeing choice. This helps explain the perverse-seeming appeal of authoritarian societies—the certainties of a rigid, choiceless society can be very reassuring—and why times of upheaval so often produce extremist leaders and movements: Hitler in Weimar Germany, Father Coughlin in Depression-era America, or Jean-Marie Le Pen in France and Vladimir Putin in Russia today. But running from anxiety, Kierkegaard believed, was a mistake because anxiety was a “school” that taught people to come to terms with the human condition.” 6 likes
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