(Sorry for not having updated my blog for a while. It was due mostly to technical issues and I hope they are resolved now.)
Let’s get straight to business. I am often asked to recommend good books on mental illness, particularly fear and anxiety. I have been reluctant to do so for a number of reasons, which I won’t get into right now, but here are brief descriptions of three books that can help you learn more about fear and anxiety and how to manage them successfully.
1. Brantley’s Calming Your Anxious Mind.
Brantley is a psychiatrist, which may lead you to expect a book covering mainly drug treatments. Not at all. In this book, the author discusses mindfulness and meditation and how these holistic practices can be helpful in managing anxiety.
The book has a number of interesting exercises meant to help the reader understand mindfulness concepts experientially. An example:
Select three or four raisins. Hold them in your hand. Sit comfortably and begin to examine them as if you have never seen or tasted a raisin before. Use all your senses. Look at the raisins. What can you discover about the raisins and about eating them? Let curiosity arise in you. Whenever your mind makes up a story about what you are doing, try to let go of that story and return your focus to the raisins.
2. Bourne’s The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook.
The edition of Anxiety and Phobia Workbook that I read had 528 pages, being more than twice as long as Brantley’s. This is not surprising, since Bourne’s book covers a lot of ground: anxiety, panic, self-esteem, nutrition, medication, relaxation, exercise, meditation, assertiveness, and much else.
Note, the information in some sections, such as nutrition, is based on the author’s “personal experience,” including readings, and is “intended to be suggestive only—not prescriptive.”
One of the strengths of the book is that it contains numerous worksheets (e.g., for dysfunctional thoughts, worries). You can also download them from the publisher’s website.
3. Barlow’s Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic.
Readers who have been following my blog may have noticed I cite Barlow quite often.
The reason is that Barlow, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry Emeritus at Boston University, is a giant in the field of emotional disorders and has written extensively on the origins of anxiety disorders for decades.
This book, co-authored by Craske (a professor of psychology at UCLA), is well-written and useful for anxious people, especially those with panic attacks and agoraphobia.
Panic attacks are rushes of intense fear that can make one believe he/she is severely ill or even dying. Agoraphobia means avoidance of situations from which escape may be hard (or help unavailable), should one experience a panic attack.
A variety of topics are covered in this relatively short workbook: Understanding anxiety and panic, learning to relax, challenging anxiety-causing thoughts (e.g., thinking the worst or overestimating the danger), facing your fears, goal-setting and problem-solving, and medications for anxiety.
Because there are many self-help books on the market, it can be difficult to decide which one to read. So I have recommended three: Brantley’s Calming Your Anxious Mind, Bourne’s The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, and Barlow’s Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic.
Needless to say, none of these books are perfect or will work for everyone or every kind of fear and worry. If one doesn’t work for you, simply move on to the next.
What if none is satisfactory? Where else to look for self-help books?
A good rule of thumb is to look at recommendations on university websites because these are often based on expert opinion and not financial factors or other considerations.
Feel free to share your opinion in the comments section about these or other self-help books you have found helpful for managing mental health symptoms (fear, anxiety, worry, rumination, depression, etc.).
Meanwhile, I hope you find the above suggestions useful.