As someone who for years has tried to tackle the relentless onslaught of panic attacks and severe anxiety, I’m always looking for a way to explain to people exactly how anxiety affects me. It can be quite difficult to articulate the intense fear and irrational thoughts that go along with panic attacks—how do I let people know how terrifying and confusing it can be to feel your heart race and crushing thoughts fill your brain of danger and death?
Well, “On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety,” by Wall Street Journal reporter Andrea Petersen, will now be required reading for my loved ones. Petersen combines her own personal experiences with diagnosed anxiety with in-depth research on the science behind why anxiety disorders develop and how they can be treated. The reason this quasi-memoir works so well is because Petersen is unafraid of sharing every preposterous thought that occurs in the midst of a panic attack (“I’m dying,” “I must be having a heart attack,” etc.) and how her anxiety has ultimately impacted her relationships, dating life, and parenting style. The author even delves into her own grandmother’s mental illness (she tried to burn her house down with her family inside during a schizophrenic episode), so that the reader is given context for how anxiety and mood disorders can be handed down to future generations.
While some readers might wish for less mentions of scientific research and data, anyone who experiences anxiety themselves will appreciate the knowledge offered to better inform our society of the immense effects anxiety can have on every aspect of someone’s life.