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My Age of Anxiety

Fear, Hope, Dread and the Search for Peace of Mind

By Scott Stossel
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My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel
Synopsis

This book offers a candid, valuable glimpse into the world of the clinically anxious. The author takes us through his personal struggle with anxiety while presenting us with scientific, philosophical and literary work about the condition and the treatments available for it.

Key idea 1 of 7

Clinical anxiety is the most common form of mental illness.

Most us would agree that anxiety is fairly normal. However, few people are aware that clinical anxiety is actually the most common form of mental illness. It is diagnosed even more often than depression, and one out of six people worldwide will be clinically anxious for at least one year in their lifetime.

In addition, anxiety seems to be a characteristic that defies the boundaries of both culture and time.

For instance, in Spanish-speaking South America anxiety is referred to as “ataques de nervios,” Greenland Inuit call it “kayak angst” and Iranians talk about “heart distress.” However it’s labeled, these terms all refer to a common state.

Clinical anxiety not only shows up across countries and cultures, but is also not tied to any particular era and has been discussed in documents throughout history.

For instance, Plato and Hippocrates had their theories about the disease, Spinoza wrote of it, and Sigmund Freud was preoccupied with finding and defining the mechanisms of anxiety.

It is important to note that anxiety is not a weakness of character. In fact, some argue that anxiety is actually the motor of civilization, creativity and inventive genius.

Indeed, many people noted for their success and influence such as Gandhi, Charles Darwin and Barbra Streisand have struggled with anxiety. Along with these well-known and respected personalities, some 40 million Americans have also been diagnosed with the illness.

With such an astounding statistic, it would be absurd to call all of these people “insane.”

Far from being a “crazy” person who cannot succeed in life, the author himself is a successful journalist and editor who can provide for his family and raise children despite his chronic anxiety.

So it is evident that clinical anxiety is a universal illness to which no one is really immune. So what is it like to live with anxiety?

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