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A Brief History of Anxiety...Yours and Mine

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  349 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
A bold new view of anxiety from an unerringly smart and funny writer who has suffered from it her whole life.

The millions of Americans who silently cope with anxiety at last have a witty, articulate champion in Patricia Pearson, who shows that the anxious are hardly “nervous nellies†with “weak characters†who just need medicine and a pat on the head. Instead, Pear
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published March 4th 2008 by Bloomsbury USA
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This book is indeed brief, but in the best way. She surveys anxiety from a number of different angles, from the excommunication of snails and putting marauding animals on trial in the 1400s (one of my favorite parts of the book) to personality types susceptible to mental disorder and the vagaries of psychiatry.

Well worth the read, especially if you battle anxiety - her humor comes through often and at the perfect time. Often I found myself shaking with laughter while yelling (maybe only in my he
Mrs. Doglvrs
I began the journey of this book with eager anticipation especially when the first few sentences described me & my anxiety to a T. I was mildly disappointed, but looking back I now think my anticipation had been ramped up by the blurb on my "Book-A-Day" calendar.
If you have a burning need to know the history of anxiety, where it generally comes from, this book is for you. I guess I was hoping for more personal insite and experience.
Read for my 2017 Reading Challenge: A self awareness book
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
I was surprised my rating was this much higher than my friends who had also read this book. Then I remembered that this is about anxiety, which seems to me to go beyond the veil of the personal and into the indescribably personal, so duh no two experiences of this sorta thing are going to be alike.

Having taken Effexor (for about a week before tossing it in the wastebin) I was grateful for the last couple chapters. Having been thinking about the effect of our culture on anxiety disorders I was b
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous, I can't say enough good about this book! It spoke to me with insights that I had been subconsciously ruminating over for years. I loved her denouncement of Dawkins' "The God Delusion", her cautionary tale on SSRI's and other psychiatric elixirs, and her quoting of Edward Shorter's "scientism" (the church of the science promoting itself, not to be confused with "good science" as she calls it). Her smart analysis of the social status discrepancies between psychiatrists and patients and t ...more
Samuel Brown
Apr 18, 2015 rated it liked it
A compelling memoir of one woman's experience with anxiety, coupled with some sloppy science reportage and superficial (and intermittently inaccurate) history. That said, I think her argument that our experience of anxiety is at least in part a result of hyper-individualism and the loss of a coherent worldview is worth some careful thought.
This book was all over the place. Her points were overshadowed by her disconnected, lengthy anecdotes. The author deeply into her own life experiences - sometimes only loosely connected to anxiety - which seems like it would be an enjoyable way to read about anxiety - but not in this case.
Richard Schwindt
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love it when a true writer takes on an addictions or mental health topic. Typically there is more truth in a few pages than reams of professional texts. Patricia Pearson's account of her struggle with anxiety is erudite, eccentric and well written. I don't agree with everything she says, particularly her take on medication, but she knows her stuff. She sees anxiety through a writer's eyes; it's personal and accurately put into the context of her life, with her daughter, husband, bills and work ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
I'm disappointed because I actually liked it up until the last two chapters, where the author goes on a rant about how evil antidepressants are. She herself may have had a negative experience, but my life has been improved by the same drug she was on, and there are many people whose lives have been saved by antidepressants. So, ugh. Up until then, it was an interesting look at anxiety with different cultural perspectives.
Marisa E
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
For such a short book, this one took me awhile to get through. I see a lot of positive reviews here but this book really did not sit well with me. I admit, I was drawn to the breezy, humorous writing when browsing at Powell's in the otherwise-seemingly-dry mental health section, and thought it seemed like a unique take on exploring these issues. But a few more pages in, I began to notice that the casual, "genre-bending" (as cited on the cover) style felt insincere at best and irresponsible at wo ...more
Nov 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: newer-nonfiction
A quick read. I was excited to read a 'history' of anxiety, but I wanted a more substantial, serious meal than Pearson dishes out: this is more of a light buffet.

'A Brief History of Anxiety' is half-memoir, half-nonfiction work. It roughly chronologically follows Pearson's life, through a couple of anxious/depressive breakdowns, including an interesting, though not really germane to the book's theme, section about working as a crime reporter during the crime-obsessed early '90s.

If there's an ov
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Addictiveness ❤❤❤

Originality ✯✯

Detail ♢♢♢♢

Story/Plot N/A

Characters N/A


Likeness to recommend to others ✤✤✤

Slow start but then this became a quick read, sat out on my porch and enjoyed a beautiful morning with this book. Reads a bit like a mix of a textbook or school paper with a personal memoir. This book gives a brief overview of the origins of what today is known as anxiety with bits of the author's personal history and anecdotes mixed in. That being said the book didn't teach me muc
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
I ordered this book as soon as I read the review in The New York Times, and I'm glad that I did. Pearson's examination of the personal and social origins of anxiety is thought-provoking and her wry humor is at times laugh-out-loud funny.

She mentions that other cultures aren't as plagued by anxiety as Canada and the US, and speculates about why that may be. She also thinks that as our rapidly changing world continues to invalidate our expectations, anxiety sometimes results because we can't get
Sep 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant book, the amazing insight into the roots of today's phobias, epidemic of depression and anxiety. The book itself is very uplifting, gives hope, helps to understand you and to connect to people with similar symptoms. Very interesting is a part on a history of dealing with mental illness, the development of modern concept of psychiatry, antidepressants and counseling. After the Romans left Europe, it went down with chaos and the gloom and fear of Dark Ages created the foundati ...more
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this in chapter-by-chapter chunks, but not as quickly as I could have. It's really an engrossing book, with useful insights and wisdom throughout. This book is meant as a history, though it really has a journalistic approach more than that of an historian (and really, the history within doesn't get very deep or expansive). Each chapter has a distinct theme but everything ties together...not at the end, but throughout. The book is cohesive. I'm troubled a bit that the author doesn't really ...more
Vanessa 'Pixi' Kraus
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who want a reason to dril holes in their head
Recommended to Vanessa 'Pixi' by: I stumbled upon it in some other bits of reading
Shelves: setting-nyc
What a pile of horribly written rubbish. At times I felt the author was really saying 'Hey I come from a semi famous Canadian family, and I've lived all over the world, how cool is that?'. The only reason I gave this book 2 stars was because there was some valuable information in here. But mostly it was the author repeating other sources for that valuable information. I'm undecided weather or not I would recommend this book to someone with anxiety issues or not. I guess it would depend if I foun ...more
Apr 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A very short book, this can be read in a day although because of other competing interests, it took me several. Alternately, humorous and sobering, Pearson examines the anxiety from the caveman on. (A slight exaggeration) stopping to opine on all the various antidotes that society has come up with to combat it over the years. Finally concluding that a little CBT and a dash of faith in "something", possibly the Lord, will do it, Pearson oversimplifies a very complex problem which still defies sol ...more
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
The first few chapters were like reading the story of my life and therefore amazing in their accuracy. I enjoyed the "brief history" part. It was interesting to see how the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders has evolved. Finally, though, the author seems to conclude that medication--except for those with severe illnesses such as schizophrenia--is a crock. I agree with her lambasting of doctors prescribing medicine automatically for every person who shows a slight degree of depression o ...more
Jul 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The granddaughter of Lester B. Pearson, Patricia Pearson takes a look at the history of anxiety but also reveals intimate details about her own struggle with anxiety. She differentiates between depression and anxiety, discussing the different ways people deal with anxiety around the world. It was very interesting to learn that in countries where there is a lot of turmoil there aren't high rates of anxiety. The US has the highest rates of reported anxiety. Pearson is critical of western medicine' ...more
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
I was attracted to this book because I wanted to read about someone else's experiences with anxiety disorder. The author does provide some examples from her own life that had me going "I totally get that and feel your pain! Thanks for putting it into words!" However, I wish there were more of these (perhaps I should look for some memoirs or essays on the topic). I also found the discussion of the history of anxiety and its treatment to be quite interesting. I agree with the author's argument tha ...more
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2008
This was a rarity - a book about dealing with anxiety that was actually well written and is actually entertaining. Many of the books I have tried to read about anxiety or depression have been so badly written that I couldn't finish them. I would highly recommend this for anyone dealing with anxiety in particular since she has some interesting thoughts about the subject that I found helpful. I'm not sure about her take on medication, however, but she is speaking from a place of longterm use and I ...more
Andrea Fortwendel
May 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
I appreciated Pearson's personal story and her insights based on her experiences. I also felt that she presented good research to anxiety especially for the lay sufferer who lives with anxiety, but knows nothing of its history, its possible origins, or how to move through it. A Brief History, for me, is a good first book to read toward my own understanding of the disorder. I appreciated her ending assessment of living for more than just yourself, to be socially aware and active in the beautiful ...more
Feb 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: textbooks, 2012, grc
My Psychiatrist suggest I read this... actually, he told me to read it and I grumpily read it while not wanting to pay attention.. but, I can honestly say that this was a good book. Informative, whitty, and true in many different ways,this book was actually a joy to read (just dont tell my shrink, I hate it when he is right). I especially liked the part about what it is in today's societies that cause panic and anxiety. Most of them are like common sense yet some of them are reasons I wouldnt ha ...more
Mar 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Seriously, this is "brief": a mere 175 pages. But Pearson takes the reader on a great gallop through the history of the treatment of mental illness and includes details of her own struggles with anxiety, the willingness ease of psychiatrists in prescribing drugs they know very little about rather than engaging the client in the hard, but more effective, talk therapy. Pearson touches on some areas people of faith will appreciate: she criticizes the current secular culture that dismisses faith as ...more
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: seattle, 2011
A witty account of one woman's struggle with anxiety, and her research into the history of the illness and the pharmaceutical cash cow it has become. Pearson, a journalist by trade, writes a smart and entertaining commentary on the personality traits that are associated with anxiety, how anxiety manifests, and how it is currently treated. As someone who has personally dealt with anxiety for many years, this book was hilarious, educational, and enlightening.
Kamini Karlekar
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it
A memoir of a different kind, Patricia Pearson writes about her struggle with anxiety, as well as potential treatments. I enjoyed the book - though it was more engaging in the first half, than in the second, where the narrative gets bogged down with too many details - not in keeping with the otherwise non-academic tone of the book. That being said, for those of us with phobias, it's a very heartening, reassuring read.
Mar 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
I was hoping this would be The Noonday Demon (Andrew Solomon's well-written exploration into depression) for anxiety. For that reason, my three star review might be biased.

I learned some new things about anxiety from this book, but overall I wanted it to have more depth and structure. It also meandered too much for me.

Still, it was provoking enough that I finished it and I appreciated the author's final conclusions about how to best deal with anxiety. They are surprisingly simplistic.
Mar 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
I found it a bit hard to relate to the author's anxiety since mine is more free-floating. Her take on anti-depressants is extremely negative. A very interesting read. Her theory seems to be that North Americans are more anxiety prone since we have more and aren't struggling with our everyday survival. In developing countries the expectation is that life will be hard, so they're happier, whereas our expectation is that life will be wonderful and we're disappointed when it falls short.
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone else dealing with anxiety
Recommended to Krystin by: Elle magazine
I enjoyed this book. It was an easy, quick read, but I must say I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the second. It started off as something I could easily relate to, one of those books that makes you go, "Oh, thank God, here is someone else who GETS IT." The second half was a little less interesting, for some reason, and although I was fascinated by the final chapter that eschews medication, it seemed a little too heavy-handed than what I was expecting from this particular book.
Oct 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
The book has some interesting quotes and sentences in the beginning but then becomes a completely irresponsible rant against anti-depressants and therapy. I hated this book and would never recommend it to anyone. The author mixes fact with her own personal experience which makes the book unclear - it can't be called non-fiction but it isn't necessarily pitched as "one woman's account".
Jan 28, 2015 rated it liked it
This book was fun to read. Not heavy for those who have trouble reading about anxiety without getting too anxious about it,as I do. It is not a colossal addition to the history of anxiety but there are a few surprising anecdotes and facts which are worth contemplating on for further enlightment.
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Canadian journalist and daughter of Canadian diplomat Geoffrey Pearson and former Ontario Senator Landon Pearson, and the granddaughter of former Prime Minister Lester Pearson.

She resigned her weekly column at the National Post in 2003 to protest that newspaper's support for the Bush administration.
More about Patricia Pearson...

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