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Understanding and coping with anxiety, with editor of The Atlantic Scott Stossel

In this episode of the People Who Read People podcast, I interview Scott Stossel (@sstossel on Twitter), who is the national editor of the magazine The Atlantic, and the author of the book My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. That book is a history of humanity’s understanding and treatment of anxiety, and also a personal history in which Scott recounts honestly and openly his own struggles with extreme, debilitating anxiety and phobias from a young age. I talk to Scott about what he’s learned in his research and in his personal life about the factors behind anxiety and how we might, as much as we are able to, overcome it. Along the way, I also talk a bit about my own struggles with anxiety.

Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

  • How people have found Scott’s book helpful to them emotionally and why they have.
  • Talks about recommended first paths of treatment when dealing with bad anxiety.
  • Thoughts on how benzodiazepines (e.g., lorazepam and other pams) and other drugs can be helpful in breaking a negative thought/rumination cycle.
  • The necessarily arbitrary nature of our attempts to categorize and label mental conditions, and the importance of being precise and careful with language.
  • How anxiety and depression can manifest in so many different ways; I talk about how Scott’s anxiety (which is real-world and physical-focused) differs so much from my own (which was largely internally, mentally focused).
  • The challenges of knowing how much you should push yourself to confront and deal with your problems versus how much you should try to adjust your life to not triggering your issues.
  • The challenges of writing a transparent book about one’s mental struggles, whether that’s the challenge of being honest about your own embarrassing secrets or the challenge of including family dynamics/details.
  • How my own interest/focus on poker tells may be related to my anxiety and oversensitivity to environment/threats