I don’t know if this book is still in print, but it’s worth scoping around used bookstores to find a copy so you can underline helpful passages. And there’s much to underline here.
First, Claire Weekes uses the old-fashioned term “nervous illness,” which sounds more tolerable to me than the word anxiety. She takes the shame out of anxiety by referring to the illness as “severe sensitization” of the nervous system. Nerves become sensitized after a surgery, a major illness, prolonged tension, dieting, and whatever stresses the body. The body reacts with the symptoms of anxiety: a churning stomach, sweaty hands, racing heart, etc. These reactions become a habit.
Second, the author explains every symptom in her no-nonsense yet reassuring tone, taking the fear out of the experience.
Third, she encourages the reader to face the fearful symptoms, and not add to them through what she calls “second fear”–those worrisome what if thoughts that keep the stomach churning, the palms sweating, the heart racing.
She reminds us that overcoming a case of sensitization doesn’t happen quickly, but, like any habit, it can be changed. The sufferer can be cured.
This book, as well as a steady practice of meditation, helped me kick the panic habit. If I overtax myself, or stop taking my “meditation medication” and start becoming sensitized again, I often reach for this book, and Dr. Weekes’ understanding, encouraging voice, to steady my nerves again.