In today’s world, anxiety is felt by almost every human being on earth. The world is falling down all around them and the first thing they do is pop a pill. But the bad thing about that is, popping a pill can get quite expensive. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to help with anxiety that doesn’t involve spending lots of our hard earned dollars? Sure it would be.
My guest today is David Berndt, Ph.D. He is the author of the new nonfiction self-help book, Overcoming Anxiety, which claims to be able to help others with anxiety and not have to pop a pill to do it.
Welcome to Examiner, Dr. Berndt. Can you tell us a little about your background?
Dr. Berndt: I am a clinical psychologist, currently seeing clients in Charleston, SC. In my academic life I was an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago. The bulk of my 80+ papers published or presented to date have been for my peers, but Overcoming Anxiety was written to help people with anxiety find some relief.
Can we begin by having you tell us why you felt there was a need for your book?
Dr. Berndt: I have been fortunate that I have always had a private practice in which my patients were involved in a collaborative way. After more than 20 years, my clients have taught me a great deal about how to share, modify and even love the techniques we relied upon that were most helpful.
The book is my attempt to cull the most useful tools and information and present it to my readers in a conversation much like the one I might have with a patient.
What would you say is the percentage of people with anxiety?
Dr. Berndt: There are several types of anxiety disorders, but when you add them together you get something in the 20-30% range, over a lifetime. However in the USA diagnoses are made more than three times as often as in Europe. That, however, does not take into account people with chronic worry that often does not rise to the level of being a clinical issue.
What would you say is the difference between anxiety and depression?
Dr. Berndt: Anxiety and depression overlap, so, for example, many depressed persons are also anxious, especially with some symptoms like dread, hopelessness, confusion and helplessness.
Many anxious clients however are not depressed and their problems have more to do with fear and anxiety than sadness. A sad mood has to do with loss (of a person, goal, or ideal) while anxiety is more about threat and dread.
When I developed the Multiscore Depression Inventory it allowed persons who were depressed to express unique profiles of symptoms, and for many of these clients anxiety played a prominent role. But while both involve strong feelings they are separate signals.
What are some of the things your book covers that deal with getting rid of anxiety?
Dr. Berndt: It is not always about getting rid of anxiety, because sometimes we need it and should pay attention to what the anxiety is trying to tell us. However, it often runs amuck, and the tools I introduced share a goal of teaching you how to manage the feeling and have a strategy for what to do in different situations.
For example you would not want to distract yourself from, or medicate the problem away, when there is a threat that needs to be addressed here and now. However distraction skills and can be an early line of defense for flashbacks, since the problem often is not a current threat but rather one from the past.
In Overcoming Anxiety I introduce the reader to several techniques that my clients have found useful. For example, one tool is called the 54321 procedure and it includes elements of distraction, self-hypnosis and mindfulness. I also have a chapter on worry, and another on exposure techniques. The most widely used approach to managing anxiety is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and while I only spend a chapter on how to change your negative thoughts, I do give some practical tips that can help make the CBT process work better.
Is there anything you’d like to say to readers who have anxiety?
Dr. Berndt: Most of what we think is anxiety, in addition to whatever is spinning in our mind, is a very real set of physical sensations that we can learn to control. We can get skilled at increasing or decreasing the size or severity of the feelings by using various grounding techniques.
Thinking of anxiety as an illness often emphasizes how helpless we are. This, of course, is the opposite of how we need to think about the problem. The client needs to accumulate tools and understanding, and find inside themselves most if not all the resources they need to get relief from and mastery of anxiety.
I wrote the book Overcoming Anxiety so I could share with readers the most useful and helpful information and techniques that I bring to my private practice. I hope the readers will be able to benefit from what my patients and I have learned over the years; that is after all why I wrote the book in the first place. I do plan to write some other books in the series down the road including one on Special Topics on Anxiety and another on insomnia, so anyone who wants to join the Psychology Knowledge readers group (join here) can get free reports and information, and also keep up to date with the books I have coming out.