In 2008, Margaret Wehrenberg published The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do to Change it. Now a workbook has been released to accompany the book.
While the book goes into more detail about different aspects of anxiety, the workbook includes enough background information to function by itself. Since the workbook also contains worksheets for each technique, if you were to purchase just one of the two books, you would probably find that the workbook meets your needs.
Wehrenberg says that the first step is to assess the type of disorder you suffer from. To help you do this, Wehrenberg provides checklists and assessments which she says “are based on situations I have observed over the years in my practice. As such they are not validated tests but rather represent questions I ask my clients and the circumstances they describe to me.” Some of the assessments are specifically designed for adolescents. In spite of not being validated, when I compared a few of the assessments with scientifically validated versions, they produced comparable results.
The workbook focuses on panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder. It is divided into three sections: managing the anxious body, managing the anxious mind, and managing anxious behavior. In the section on managing the anxious body, chapters focus on the impact of food and drink on anxiety, and on breathing, mindfulness, and physical relaxation. Each chapter presents techniques which may be valuable for all types of anxiety, then describes how a technique can be applied to each of the anxiety disorders. The book includes a CD with guided exercises for breathing, practicing mindfulness, and physical relaxation. The CD is well-produced, with exercises read by the author, who has a pleasant voice.
Techniques vary from strategies you can use when you only have as little as two minutes to strategies for developing productive new habits. Most chapters end with a S.I.M.P.L.E plan that you create for specific problems. Each letter stands for a different element of the plan which includes “S” for describing the symptoms of your problem, “M” for the method you’re going to try, and “E” for evaluating the results.
The book includes detailed and useful information about how to perform diaphragmatic breathing, as well as teaching how to practice mindfulness and relaxation. It contains detailed and less useful information about how to stop catastrophizing and on thought stopping and replacement. Even though some of the advice may seem obvious, if you suffer from anxiety you are likely to find a strategy that could help you. One interesting idea is that when we’re anxious, we need to seek the “right reassurance.” If you ask for reassurance from others, you may feel better only temporarily. Wehrenberg says that “the right reassurance is reassurance that you are competent to handle problems.” She says that you’ll continue to worry unless “you remind yourself that even if the worst does happen, you will be able to deal with it.”
One of my quibbles with the book is that the author has an annoying habit of personifying the brain, as when she says “Your brain does not like it when you have a physical sensation without an observable reason, so it decides, ‘If I feel this bad, there must be something wrong!’” She also makes strange assertions such as “If your energy supply is not burned off through physical exertion, such as when sitting in front of a computer 12 hours a day . . . you have a release of energy that never gets used. This is a major reason people put fat on in their middles when under stress.” She implies that sedentary jobs lead to anxiety because of this “release of energy that never gets used;” and also that stress is the deciding factor in whether we get fat when we have a sedentary job, leaving out the importance of dietary intake and exercise. She also recommends questionable techniques such as the use of affirmations, even though research does not validate their use.
Strangest of all is her invention of the term “too much activity” (TMA), which she describes as though it is a scientific diagnosis. Someone with TMA suffers from a “high drive” and sufferers are unable to “hold still,” causing their feelings of anxiety to increase. Her diagnostic assessment for TMA includes statements such as “getting unexpected free time can raise my anxiety, especially if I have no warning” and “I become very impatient when something slows down my progress.” TMA also includes perfectionism, which she says some people use to control their anxiety. The strategies she describes for dealing with TMA include life/work balance, planning for free time, and learning to have fun. You may find her treatment information useful, but I question creating a new diagnosis for what might otherwise be called a “Type A” personality.
Should you purchase this workbook if you suffer from social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, or panic disorder? You will find a great deal of useful information, along with worksheets and tools to help you try new strategies and evaluate your progress. In spite of my reservations about a few areas that she writes about, overall, a sufferer from anxiety will probably find it and the accompanying CD useful.
The Ten Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques Workbook
By Margaret Wehrenberg
W. W. Norton & Company: March 19, 2012
Paperback, 240 pages
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Crook, J. (2012). The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques Workbook. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 26, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-10-best-ever-anxiety-management-techniques-workbook/00012106
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
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