Best Self-Help: Anxiety

by BrevardJones

Psychologist-recommended self-help resources to help you find the best books for people with anxiety. Remember, books don't replace good therapy!

Does anxiety keep you from living life to its fullest? Do you see other people doing things that scare you with seeming ease and comfort?

Anxiety is a common and normal part of life. Everyone feels anxiety at some point--butterflies in your stomach, weak knees, shaking--in the face of any number of real or perceived threats. Often, feeling nervous, anxious, worried, or panicky is just a nuisance. Anyone might scream at the sight of a spider or tremble when standing on a cliff, but for some people, anxiety is a life-disrupting force. It might come in the form of a vague feeling of discomfort, or it might be a fear of something specific.

If your anxiety is causing problems in your life, keep reading to find some recommendations for self-help resources that can help you reduce those feelings.

"Portrait of Acute Anxiety"
"Portrait of Acute Anxiety"
Wes Washington (Wikimedia Commons)

Why self-help?

There are a dizzying array of self-help books on the market, and yet more than 95% of those published that have no evidence that they actually help (Rosen, 1993). The good news is that some self-help resources are effective. A number of studies indicate that self-help is substantially more effective than no treatment--and that self-help may actually be nearly as effective as professional counseling (Cuijpers and others, 2010). And about 85% of psychologists recommend self-help resources to their clients in conjunction with therapy (Psychotherapy 37:4, p. 370-377).

But how can you know which items might actually be helpful? Every resource listed in this hub is recommended by practicing counselors and is supported by current research. I've gathered titles from a variety of different professional psychology sources to help you in your search for better mental health.

Types of Anxiety

The following list from the tAPir site (an excellent grassroots resource for people with anxiety disorders) provides this list of information about the varied types of anxiety disorders:

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, now in its 6th edition, is one of the most-used workbooks on this topic. If you are looking for concrete activities and exercises to help you address anxiety issues, this book is a practical and comprehensive resource for reducing anxiety, and is very accessible for the layperson. It takes a holistic cognitive-behavioral approach, exploring body, behavior, feelings, mind, interpersonal relations, and spirituality dimensions. This edition has been updated to reflect changes in the latest psychological diagnostic manual (DSM-V) and current information on medications and treatment, mindfulness training, exposure therapy, and neurobiology research. It includes step-by-step strategies for treating a variety of anxiety issues including:

  • panic disorders
  • agoraphobia
  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • worry
  • fear

I personally recommend this title as the best cognitive-behavioral workbook for anxiety that I have encountered.

"Anxiety"
"Anxiety"
Edvard Munch, via Wikimedia Commons

Shyness itself is not a problem. But when shyness keeps a person from living a full life or forming relationships with others, it is causing a problem. This workbook provides worksheets and exercises that can easily be incorporated into everyday life. It uses an active cognitive behavioral approach to guide socially anxious people through skill-building exercises to help them face stressful and anxiety-inducing activities and work their way through them. The book begins with self-evaluations to help readers learn about their strengths and weaknesses and explore their fears and anxiety. It then guides the reader to create a personalized plan for change and to implement that plan through through gentle and gradual exposure to social situations.

Lerner takes a different approach to addressing issues of fear, anxiety, and shame in this readable volume. The focus is on poignant stories of individuals who deal with these feelings that overshadow their lives and thus is a good counterpoint to the workbook and toolkit approach above. If you have a strong sense of empathy or a less task-oriented approach to personal growth, this is the volume for you. You must be able to see yourself in the stories she tells in order to use them to help yourself make changes, but regardless, the stories can help you begin to accept that fear and anxiety are part of life and can be faced. For more information about Lerner and excerpts of all her books, see her website.

This book is both toolbox and text, using an approach often taken in formal treatment for panic disorders. The cognitive, exposure, and hidden emotion models are explored in some detail, and strategies from each of these three models are offered. Cognitive strategies focus on changing the way you think, since unreasonable anxieties come from our perceptions rather than actual dangers. Exposure strategies help you to confront fears rather than avoid them. Finally, strategies that help expose hidden emotions allow people to address negative feelings about unrelated issues so that they don't resurface in disguise as anxiety. The strength of this volume lies in the toolbox of strategies it offers, as well as the common-sense approach to maintaining mental health for the long term.

More therapist-recommended titles

Recommended online resources

  • e-couch Self Help

    e-couch provides free, self-help modules for depression, general anxiety and social anxiety, as well as for divorce/separation and loss/bereavement. e-couch tool-kits teach skills drawn from a range of evidence-based therapies.

  • Mental Health Online

    Based on the results of a free online assessment, users are offered either a free self-directed program for mild anxiety, or a low-cost therapist-assisted online program for moderate to severe anxiety.

Updated: 12/23/2015, BrevardJones
 
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iggy on 12/28/2015

Very informative,,, thank you

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