Thursday 8 December 2016

Retraining the mind to deal with the anxiety of life

Non-fiction: Flagging Anxiety and Panic: How to Reshape Your Anxious Mind and Brain, Dr Harry Barry, Liberties Press, €14.99

JP O'Malley

Published 23/05/2016 | 02:30

Dr Harry Barry
Dr Harry Barry
Flagging Anxiety and Panic by Dr Harry Barry

Have you ever experienced a sudden sensation of overwhelming anxiety and fear? It can come out of nowhere, at home, out with friends, at work. Suddenly your heart starts pounding, you feel as if you can't breathe properly, as if you're experiencing a stroke or a heart attack. You are utterly terrified, and the more scared you become, the tighter and more intense the sensation gets. You call an ambulance or get yourself to a doctor as soon as you can, only to be told that what you're experiencing is "just" a panic attack.

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But how can something so terrifying be just a symptom of anxiety? In his latest book; Flagging Anxiety and Panic, Dr Harry Barry simply and effectively explains the causes of, and provides solutions for, anxious minds. Anxiety is a normal reaction. It only becomes a problem when it is severe and persistent. Yet many of us can become crippled by anxiety and panic attacks.

In Flagging Anxiety and Panic Barry manages to explain, with empathy and without jargon, the various anxiety conditions that many of us are prone to - why we experience them and what we can do about them. He walks us through case examples and demystifies cognitive behavioural therapy, explaining how it is based on "two simple but profound concepts; first, that our thoughts influence our emotions, which influence behaviour, so what we think affects what we feel and do; and second, that it is not what happens to us in life that matters, but how we choose to interpret it."

This is extraordinarily liberating, putting, as it does, control of our emotional reactions into our own hands. Barry explains, simply, the ABC approach to cognitive behavioural therapy. The 'A' is the "activating event. Then we have "B" or "belief", what we think the event means to us. The "C' stands for "consequences", our behavioural responses that result from A and B.

Ultimately Barry shows us how we can retrain our brains to deal with anxiety and panic in a calm and positive manner. And he shows us simply, with the kindness, and understanding that is now his hallmark.

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