Thursday, January 12, 2012


Whee, this is important, I thought, when I saw the cover of my magazine.

Whoa, my Dr. Em self thought, as I delved into the 7 pages on WHY ANXIETY IS GOOD FOR YOU.

It's words, words, words defining, re-defining, explaining brain areas, hypothalamus, pituitary-adrenal (HPA), stria terminalis (BNST), amygdala, cortisol, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, panic disorder, social anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the relation of all this to DNA, white blood cells, hormones, and stress -- the kind that's self defeating, the other kind that inspires you to meet and conquer a stress-creating challenge.

Time magazine employs some very skilled, experienced writers whose articles I read, but often end up skimming because ... well ... maybe it's because I don't know enough -- too many references and abbreviations often keep me from understanding what the point IS, in the article. For me, it's as if I've bought a ticket to a play with an interesting title, good cast, even star names, but the plot ...? After I've met the cast, I can't connect with the drama. Even as I wonder if it's my ignorance, I blame it on the playwright, director, producers and sneak out of the theater at intermission.

Richard Stengel, the managing editor of Time, in my opinion, is a commercially-minded boss. He's in tune with the times. He knows what's hot or getting hot, and features topics that will sell, that get people to buy the magazine. Undoubtedly Stengel deals with his own anxieties daily, because every week he's putting together an action-packed, information-packed 70 to 90 pages of stories, pictures, and ads that will attract age 10 -100-year-old readers.

For this cover story seven authorities, at seven major anxiety treatment centers were consulted. If you need help coping with your anxiety, browse this list: Sally Winston, co-director of the Anxiety & Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland (ASDI); Elissa Epel, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco; Reid Wilson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, director of the Anxiety Disorders Treatment Center; Michael Davis at Emory University; Dr. James Abelson, director of the Stress & Anxiety Disorders Program at the University of Michigan; Dr. Craig Smith, chairman of the department of surgery at Columbia University Medical Center and New York--Presbyterian (Bill Clinton's heart doc); Diego Pizzagalli of Harvard Medical School, director of the Center for Depression, Anxiety & Stress Research at McLean Hospital.

Eeny, meeny, miney, moe -- whatever is near you, that's where to go!

I perked up when the article referred to stage fright -- the churning stomach, sweaty hands, fearful thoughts like "Will I forget my lines? can I do that pirouette? can I produce the tears? will I get the laugh?" I was glad the article mentioned the sometimes HELPFUL use of anti depressants, sometimes DETRIMENTAL use of them, and encouraged us who feel anxiety, to practice converting scaredy-poop thoughts (my term) into positive thoughts. For instance, when the stage manager calls "places please," and you're ready to die -- you need to tell yourself, "Stop worrying, you always feel like this, the last time I felt like this you got a rave review."

It was seven pages of blah-blah -- not helpful, not serving any purpose -- just categorizing anxiety with words and acronyms, saying, if you are anxious, you better try not to be, otherwise you'll feel worse."

Famous wise men such as Soren Kierkegaard have said anxiety is "dizziness of reason." T.S. Eliot called it "the handmaiden of creativity."

Dr. Em says, If you are anxious, turn the page and make yourself think about something else.
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