Anxious Book Summary - Anxious Book explained in key points
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Anxious summary

Joseph Ledoux

Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety

4.3 (267 ratings)
27 mins

Brief summary

'Anxious' by Joseph Ledoux explores the science behind anxiety and provides practical tips on how to manage and overcome it. Ledoux proposes that understanding the biology of anxiety is crucial in finding effective coping strategies.

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    Anxiety was once seen as an essential part of being human.

    With headlines blaring record numbers of anxiety disorders, it may seem like anxiety is something unique to our frenetic modern age. But, actually, the concept has been around for centuries. 

    The word originates from the ancient Greek word angh, meaning “burdened” or “troubled.” There are references to it throughout the New Testament, which describes anxious sinners waiting for God's wrath to rain upon them. In 1844, Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard published The Concept of Anxiety, where he argued that anxiety is a consequence of the human capacity to make decisions; it shows we are aware of the power and responsibility of free choice. 

    The key message here is: Anxiety was once seen as an essential part of being human. 

    This view of anxiety as a normal, and even necessary, emotion was very influential. It inspired a wealth of theory by existentialist philosophers like Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre. But then, in the early twentieth century, Sigmund Freud presented a very different view of anxiety. 

    Freud argued that anxiety is central to a host of psychopathological disorders, and is a sign that we have been trying to repress trauma and unpleasant memories. Because we’re not actively dealing with these issues, they become toxic and, as a result, make us neurotically anxious. Freud's psychoanalytic methods involved trying to find the underlying cause of the anxiety. He believed that if the repressed trauma were dealt with, then the anxiety would disappear. Freud’s theory fundamentally changed how we perceive anxiety. It went from being seen as a normal part of being human to becoming a sign that something was wrong and needed to be fixed. 

    Freud’s idea of anxiety became especially popular after World War Two. In 1947, poet W. H. Auden published his famous book The Age of Anxiety, coining a catchphrase of the same name; it has been used liberally by every generation since. Filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and Woody Allen started featuring anxious characters in their films, while The Rolling Stones started writing songs about housewives using Valium. 

    Today, a simple Google search for “anxiety” will yield over 42 million hits. So, clearly, anxiety disorders are something we talk about a lot. But there is still tons of confusion about what it actually means to be anxious. In the next blink, we'll examine what distinguishes an anxiety disorder from everyday worries. 

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    What is Anxious about?

    Anxious (2015) is an in-depth study of anxiety disorders. It explores how anxiety is diagnosed and examines how our in-built survival mechanisms can sabotage us by making us perceive danger where none exists. Most importantly, it provides an overview of the most innovative treatment options available – from reprogramming our memories to practicing meditation.

    Anxious Review

    Anxious (2015) by Joseph Ledoux explores the intricate world of anxiety, shedding light on its causes and offering practical ways to overcome it. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with scientific research and expert analysis, it helps readers gain a deeper understanding of anxiety and its impact on our lives.
    • The author's insightful perspective provides valuable tools and strategies to manage anxiety, offering hope and empowerment to those who struggle with it.
    • With its engaging anecdotes and relatable examples, the book demystifies anxiety and creates a compassionate space to navigate this complex emotion.

    Best quote from Anxious

    We run into trouble when we label nonconscious processes with words about conscious feelings. 

    —Joseph Ledoux
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    Who should read Anxious?

    • Anyone living with anxiety who wants to understand more about it 
    • Teachers and caregivers who want to support the young people in their care
    • Psychology buffs who want to better understand this pervasive disorder

    About the Author

    Joseph LeDoux is the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science at New York University. He also directs the Emotional Brain Institute at New York University and the Nathan Kline Institute. His previous books include Synaptic Self and The Emotional Brain.

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    Anxious FAQs 

    What is the main message of Anxious?

    The main message of Anxious is understanding the science behind fear and anxiety in order to better manage them.

    How long does it take to read Anxious?

    The reading time for Anxious varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Anxious a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Anxious is a valuable read that sheds light on the inner workings of fear and anxiety, helping readers gain a deeper understanding of these emotions.

    Who is the author of Anxious?

    The author of Anxious is Joseph LeDoux.

    What to read after Anxious?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Anxious, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Answer to Anxiety by Joyce Meyer
    • Unwinding Anxiety by Judson Brewer
    • Anxiety at Work by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton with Anthony Gostick
    • Rewire Your Anxious Brain by Catherine M. Pittman & Elizabeth M. Karle
    • How We Heal by Alexandra Elle
    • Radically Happy by Phakchok Rinpoche and Erric Solomon
    • My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel
    • How to Meet Your Self by Nicole LePera
    • Widen the Window by Elizabeth A. Stanley
    • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg