Synopses & Reviews
[Pearson] examine[s] modern civilization and its discontents, as well as her own miseries
thoughtfully and incisively. Major points for wit and flair.”New York Times
The millions of Americans who silently cope with anxiety at last have a witty, articulate champion. Patricia Pearson is a contributing editorial writer for USA Today. She is the author of the novels Playing House and Believe Me, the essay collecton Area Woman Blows Gasket, and the groundbreaking investigation of female aggression, When She Was Bad, for which she won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best True Crime in 1997. Her commentary has also appeared in the New York Times, the New York Observer, and the Guardian, among many other publications. She lives in Toronto with her husband and her two children.
There are millions of Americans who silently cope with anxiety, and Patricia Pearson offers herself as their witty, articulate champion by showing that the anxious are hardly nervous nellies” with weak characters” who just need medicine and a pat on the head. Instead, Pearson questions what it is about twenty-first century American culture that is making people anxious, and offers some surprising answersas well as some inspiring solutions based on her own fierce battle with the disorder.
Drawing on personal episodes of incapacitating dread as a vivid, often humorous guide to her own quest to understand this most ancient of human emotions, Pearson delves into the history and geography of anxiety. Why are North Americans so much more likely to suffer than Latin Americans? Why did Darwin treat hypochondria with sprays from a hose? Why have we forgotten the insights of some of our greatest philosophers, theologians, and psychologists in favor of prescribing addictive drugs? In this blend of reportage and memoir, Pearson concludes with her struggle to withdraw from antidepressants and to find more self-aware and philosophically grounded ways to bolster the psyche.
[Pearson] examine[s] modern civilization and its discontents, as well as her own miseries, which she does, thoughtfully and incisively. Major points for wit and flair.”The New York Times
Finely crafted. Pearson makes plenty of intriguing and arguable observations. If you're anxious all the time and you think about that anxiety a lot, this collection will provide you some companionable relief.”Slate
Pearson is a daredevil on the page; her prose somersaults and vaults, does splits and juggles, keeping the reader entertained by her wit and amazed by her dexterity as an investigative journalist . . . This mix of the quotidian (her disorder was born from heartbreak) and scholarly (she traces the ghoulish specters that make appearances in nursery rhymes across different cultures) offers readers a learned hand through the fraught world of anxiety politics.”Kelly McMasters, Newsday
Pearson weaves in vivid descriptions of her own emotional upheavals with insights and explanations from philosophers and psychologists, historic and contemporary. The combination makes the book stimulating, accessible, and relevant. Pearson has given us an insightful and entertaining book.”Body & Soul
"In this meditation on anxiety, shot through with bright insights and shafts of illumination, Patricia Pearson has subtly interwoven her personal story with the history of anxiety in a manner that left me revisiting both the book and my memories of it long after I had finished. A Brief History of Anxiety deftly conveys a sense of where we have come to, offers succor to anyone afflicted with nerves, and may yet take a place beside some of the cultural landmarks in the field."David Healy, author of Let Them Eat Prozac
"If only more psychology were written with the literate intelligence of this book. It is a weaving of stories that accomplishes a great deal: cultural analysis, psychological insight, and personal reflection. You will enjoy it and learn from it. If you are ever afraid of the dark, crowds of people, heights, and the insanity of your fellow humans, as I am, you may find comfort here."Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul and A Life's Work
"What makes A Brief History of Anxiety sing is the wryly funny, winning voice of its author. Pearson has a gift for weaving personal experience into cultural analysis, resulting in something both entertaining and true. She's created a book that will offer comfort, insight and wisdom about a condition that touches nearly all of us in some way."Peggy Orenstein, author of Waiting for Daisy and Schoolgirls
Insightfully probes one of the oldestand least-understoodpsychological conditions. In this slim but well-constructed book, the author weaves her own experiences . . . with a lively history of anxiety and its many sufferers. She begins by exploring the murky relation among fear, anxiety and depression: Our fears are private, arbitrary, idiosyncratic, and very often masked. Anxiety rages undetected in the mind, both secretive and wild. And she employs a pleasing blend of personal anecdote and historical context. Despite her often playful tone and poetic, evocative language, Pearson provides countless intriguing historical examples, backed by an extensive notes section, including discussions of ancient philosophy, medicine and theology; Darwin's treatment of his hypochondria (he was sprayed with a hose); American composer Allen Shawn's agoraphobia; and the Middle Ages practice of summoning animals to court to stand trial, simply in the interest of holding something accountable when things went awry. She also examines contemporary manifestations of anxiety: widespread depression and fear of being fired from one's job; pressure to succeed, illustrated by the case of Kaavya Viswanathan, the Harvard sophomore who in 2006 was shown to have plagiarized most of her much-hyped debut novel from other authors; and Flu Wiki, a website devoted to those obsessed with an epidemic outbreak of influenza . . . The author concludes with a chronicle of her negative experiences with prescription drugs like Effexor and Lexapro, and the chargea common one these daysthat psychiatrists are overprescribing in lieu of less-invasive treatments like behavioral therapy. A wholly satisfying mix of memoir, cultural history and investigative journalism.”Kirkus Reviews
"Novelist and nonfiction writer Pearson was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at 23 in 1987; she had suffered a nervous breakdown after discovering that her lover was sleeping with another woman. In a rambling fashion, she traces the roots of her anxiety to a youth spent in tumultuous New Delhi, where her diplomat father was posted when an Indian-Pakistani war broke out over Bangladesh. Genetically, she traces her anxiety to a grandmother whose famous biting wit was likely, she surmises, a manifestation of anxiety and depression. Pearson quotes a range of sources, including the 2002 World Mental Health Survey and angst-ridden Kierkegaard, Keats and Whitman. Pearson's anxieties constantly shift according to the stresses in her life, and an adverse reaction to antidepressants once caused her to make sexual advances to her daughter's friend's mother. Citizens of affluent U.S. and Canada are more prone to dread and panic than Mexicans, says Pearson, who herself grew up in a privileged Canadian family with a grandfather who was prime minister and a Nobel Peace Prize winner . . . Pearson's quirky memoir should strike a chord with some of the 40 million American adults suffering from clinical anxiety."Publishers Weekly
“Highly amusing…[Pearson] examine[s] modern civilization and its discontents, as well as her own miseries…thoughtfully and incisively. Major points for wit and flair.”—New York Times
The millions of Americans who silently cope with anxiety at last have a witty, articulate champion.
About the Author
Patricia Pearson is a contributing editorial writer for USA Today. She is the author of the novels Playing House and Believe Me, the essay collection Area Woman Blows Gasket, and the groundbreaking investigation of female aggression When She Was Bad, for which she won the Arthur Ellis Award for best nonfiction crime book in 1997. Her commentary has also appeared in the New York Times, the New York Observer, and the Guardian, among many other publications. She lives in T oronto with her husband, her two children, and her dread.