A story comes across the wires about an ill-fated 18-year-old girl who died on a snorkeling trip to Cancun. My thoughts in quick succession: Oh that poor girl and her poor family. Crap, I am never going snorkeling…Hmm, probably shouldn't go on boats again either… Oh gawd, don't even start with planes!… I should just stay in my house and never leave. And obviously, I am far from alone in my generalized, irrational anxiety. Meredith Maran writes in Salon today, "Forty million of us — that's 28.8 percent — suffer from the ailment that the National Institutes of Mental Health defines as 'an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations'; William James called 'a horrible dread at the pit of my stomach'; and Anaïs Nin called 'love's greatest killer.'" Maran's anxiety was crippling enough that it was harming her relationship (once, when her wife couldn't reach her, she assumed her wife was dead), so she sought many different kinds of treatment including, talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, drugs, and several combinations of the three. But what she found most effective was a class offered by her HMO called "Managing Your Anxiety."
The class was based on cognitive behavioral principles, and Maran and the other "stressed-out survivors plugged away, and after two months I was stunned to discover that I had less anxiety, and more tools in my psychological repertoire, than talk therapy had yielded in 20 years." She continues to use her "little yellow pills" to help her manage her anxiety in the rough spots, but Maran still can't shake the theory "that the popularity of the behavioral/pharmaceutical cocktail is driven more by what's good for Big Pharma than by what's good for semi-psychos like me."
Anxiety expert Jerilyn Ross listens to Maran's concerns and then tells her:"So what if it's a conspiracy? It works…The psychoanalysts say we're putting Band-Aids on our patient's problems. I say if it stops the bleeding, who cares?" Yeah, I know it's sort of Orwellian with all the mind control but I completely agree. Now where are my pills?