A riveting, revelatory and moving account of one man’s battle with anxiety, and a history of the efforts to understand the condition by scientists, philosophers, artists, and writers, from Freud to Hippocrates and from Samuel Johnson to Charles Darwin.
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER and SHORTLISTED FOR THE WELLCOME BOOK PRIZE 2015
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 guides us across the terrain of an affliction that is pervasive yet too often misunderstood.
Drawing on his own long-standing battle with anxiety, Stossel presents an astonishing history, at once intimate and authoritative, of the efforts to understand the condition from medical, cultural, philosophical and experiential perspectives. He ranges from the earliest medical reports of Galen and Hippocrates, through later observations by Robert Burton and Søren Kierkegaard, to the investigations by great nineteenth-century scientists, such as Charles Darwin, William James and Sigmund Freud, as they began to explore its sources and causes, to the latest research by neuroscientists and geneticists. Stossel reports on famous individuals who struggled with anxiety, as well as the afflicted generations of his own family. His portrait of anxiety reveals not only the emotion’s myriad manifestations and the anguish it produces, but also the countless psychotherapies, medications and other (often outlandish) treatments that have been developed to counteract it. Stossel vividly depicts anxiety’s human toll – its crippling impact, its devastating power to paralyse – while at the same time exploring how those who suffer from it find ways to manage and control it.
My Age of Anxiety is learned and empathetic, humorous and inspirational, offering the reader great insight into the biological, cultural and environmental factors that contribute to the affliction.
“Unflinchingly honest and written in an accessible style…This is a courageous, entertaining and well-researched book about a condition that is thought to currently affect 15 percent if people in the UK.”
“[A] vivid, smart exploration of the history of anxiety. Stossel tackles genetics, nature and nurture, drug development, and changing medical and philosophical attitudes with the lightest of touches.”
“[A] courageous and hilarious journey to the edge of insanity…Stossel’s patient, conscientious uncertainty contains more wit and sensitivity than a hundred manifestos…an immense achievement.”
“Fascinating and hugely entertaining. An intense, incredibly brave narrative tinged with moments of outright hilarity, it’s impossible to put down.”
“Careful and clearly written, his book contains more truth, wit and sensitivity than 100 manifestos.”
“For anyone who wants to know all about anxiety from a dazzlingly honest sufferer’s perspective, it’s hard to imagine a better book than this.”
BBC Focus magazine
“He brings to this story depth, intelligence and perspective that could enlighten untold fellow sufferers for years to come.”
“Staggeringly, brilliantly, indispensably useful.”
Joshua Wolf Shenk
“Intelligent, interesting and well written … His story is a good window on the crazy history of the field …Bravely and admirably done.”
“My Age of Anxiety is a mine of information and extensive soul-searching. For contemporary readers, especially those beset with anxiety, it will prove an invaluable resource.”
“Terrific…an unsparing and unsentimental look at a subject many keep hidden: mental illness.”
“[A] fascinating, page-turning book, with Stossel interspersing facts with personal experiences, as well as stories about famous names who have suffered from the condition and snippets of information he has received from the many therapists he's seen over the years. This is a captivating and insightful look at anxiety.”
Press Association, 4/5 stars
“[An] informed and authoritative but personal overview of a debilitating condition”
“Stossel writes a well thought out, in-depth analysis of the history of anxiety disorders in modern times.”
“[A] full and frank account”
“[A] wonderful book”