Patricia Pearson returns to non-fiction with a witty, insightful and highly personal look at recognizing and coping with fears and anxieties in our contemporary world.
The millions of North Americans who silently cope with anxiety at last have a witty, articulate champion in Patricia Pearson, who shows 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 today’s culture that is making people anxious, and offers some surprising answers–as well as some inspiring solutions based on her own fierce battle to drive the beast away.
Drawing on personal episodes of incapacitating dread as a vivid, often hilarious guide to her 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 fascinating reportage and poignant memoir, Pearson ends with her struggle to withdraw from antidepressants and to find more self-aware and philosophically-grounded ways to strengthen the soul.
Patricia Pearson is a wife, a mother and an award-winning writer. She has won two National Magazine Awards, a National Author’s Award and the Arthur Ellis Award for Best True Crime Book for When She Was Bad. She has written two novels: Playing House, which was nominated for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, and Believe Me. She is also the author of the acclaimed essay collection Area Woman Blows Gasket. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two children.
“Pithy, revealing, often funny, and highly intelligent. . . . Hothouse flowers like me will find themselves nodding vehemently, underlining passages, reading parts aloud to loved ones, even finding comfort and calm in Pearson’s deeply penetrating view into our version of the human condition.”
"Eye-opening, affecting, lucid and constructive, A Brief History of Anxiety is everything you wanted to know about anxiety, but–naturally–were afraid to ask."
–Quill and Quire
“Pearson’s deeply felt examination of anxiety disorders begins with her own and goes on to encompass all of society’s. The book is informative and insightful, but also darkly humorous throughout.”
–The Globe and Mail
“Insightfully probes one of the oldest and least-understood psychological conditions. . . . A wholly satisfying mix of memoir, cultural history and investigative journalism.”
“Like 40 million Americans, Ms. Pearson suffers from anxiety, which she pithily calls ‘fear in search of a cause.’ Her own case fascinates her, and quite rightly. It presents her with the opportunity to examine modern civilization and its discontents, as well as her own miseries, which she does, thoughtfully and incisively.”
–The New York Times
“Pearson’s facility for humour keeps the laughter impulse always close at hand, even as we’re drawn deeper into some very dark places. . . . A witty and insightful read, this is one of the stronger non-fiction releases of the season.”
“A genre-busting page turner: a portrait of Pearson’s lifelong struggle with anxiety, melded with a journalistic investigation of what ails her, and me and us.”
“Exhilarating. 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.”
“[S]he is a daredevil on the page; her prose somersaults and vaults, keeping the readers entertained by her wit and amazed by her dexterity as an investigative journalist.”
–The Miami Herald
“[Pearson] offers readers a learned hand through the fraught world of anxiety politics. . . . This book offers the anxious reader a recipe, one that is sure to quiet.”
“Pithy, revealing, often funny, and highly intelligent. . . . Hothouse flowers like me will find themselves nodding vehemently, underlining passages, reading parts aloud to loved ones, even finding comfort and calm in Pearson’s deeply penetrating view into our version of the human condition.” ——Elle magazine
“Enlightening and very funny.”
"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, bestselling author of Care of the Soul and A Life's Work
"I was worried – almost in a panic – that I wouldn’t enjoy this tour of anxiety past and present. But here is a bubble bath of a book to lift your spirits and make you laugh. Pearson’s wry and illuminating insights into this modern state of mind are better medicine than Effexor."
–Marni Jackson, author of Pain and The Mother Zone
"In this meditation on anxiety, shot through with insights and shafts of illumination, Patricia Pearson has subtly interwoven her personal story with the history of anxiety in a manner that left this reader revisiting both the text and my memories of it long after I had finished it. This short book 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 Healey, psychiatrist and author of Let Them Eat Prozac