Anxiety Is Really Strange
As part of a graphic series on self-care and mind/body understanding, Steve Haines (a chiropractor who teaches Trauma Releasing Exercises) writes and Sophie Standing illustrates Anxiety Is Really Strange. (They have also done Trauma Is Really Strange and Pain Is Really Strange, while Forgiveness Is Really Strange is written by Masi Noor and Marina Cantacuzino.)
It wasn’t what I expected. It’s a 32-page comic on heavy paper that reads like an illustrated essay, with related quotes as footnotes on almost every page. I found it a little educational, as I learned what anxiety really is, but more philosophical than I expected, and not as useful or memorable as I hoped. The art is secondary to the text, as the book could be read without the images without losing any information, but they made the subject more approachable, as I found them calming. The color palette is also relaxing, sky blue and beige and mustard yellow punctuated with blue-black and deep orange for contrast. (There are preview pages at the publisher’s website.)
In the opening, the difference between fear and excitement is compared to the difference between cake and bread, a metaphor that made sense to me. The book’s premise, as the author states, is that “your brain has become too good at predicting danger”, which causes anxiety and panic attacks. False alarms, mentally, create the feeling of the need to escape the situation. Causes can be related to food, health, genetics, childhood trauma, and/or stress. It’s both surprising and not to find out that more than 25% of US adults will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.
Given that, most readers will leave this issue with things to think about, whether techniques to respond to unpleasant feelings or the amazing quote, “Anxiety is a good thing because psychopaths don’t have any.” The page on emotions unique to certain cultures, which include hygge and schadenfreude, is enlightening, if wandering a bit away from the purpose.
Given the limited space, I wish there had been more focus on the practical, less on (for example) Sartre’s thoughts on death or the nature of emotion. I would have liked to have seen some case studies, specific examples of anxiety and how the patient managed it. The last third of the book does get around to ways to reframe the way one thinks about anxiety symptoms and be more in touch with the body. I suspect it’s a lot easier to say than to do. (The publisher provided a review copy.)