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One of the Pagina de Psihologie’s new publications is How to tell anxiety to sod off, a book signed by the British author James Withey. If the name sounds familiar it’s no coincidence, he’s also the author of How To Tell Depression to Piss Off. In the new book, Withey presents us 40 ways in which we can regain control of our own lives. And reading the interview below we have every chance to love him even more than we already did.

James, first of all, thank you for your book „How to tell anxiety to sod off“, it is a helpful resource. What motivated you to write this book and what feedback did you receive?

After How to Tell Depression to Piss Off was published, I had SO many people asking for a book in the same accessible format, but about anxiety.

Similar to when I first had depression, all the books I read about anxiety were by people who never suffered with it. There were doctors, psychiatrists and academics who may have known a lot about it in theory but didn’t live with it like I did. I learned my own successful ways to manage it, so I wanted share them with everyone from a fellow sufferer.

The feedback has been really amazing, people have really loved the book so much, especially the use of humour and having 40 manageable ways. I get many e-mails telling me how useful it’s been to and there’s no better reward for me than that.

In Romania, there are people unaware of the theory of anxiety. How would you explain to them what anxiety is and why they need help managing it?

Well, anxiety at a basic level is worrying about things, but it’s really so much more than that. Anxiety can be rational, so being worried about your first day at a new job for example, or irrational, worrying about an imaginary penguin stranded in the Antarctic!

It’s our body and brain overestimating the danger of a potential situation. A lot of anxiety is based on primitive reactions to situations we had in the past – like knowing to run away from a sabre toothed tiger –which thankfully doesn’t happen so much these days, but our bodies are still caught in those feelings and responses. Problematic anxiety is, when it profoundly impacts our life, is what I experience and what the book is about.

It’s so important to manage your anxiety because it stops us from living our best lives. It stops us from enjoying moments of happiness and from being present. Imagine you’re going to a party. You will see all the people you love, there’s going to be dancing, and music and wonderful food. Anxiety disrupts all of that enjoyment by saying, „What if I say something stupid? What if I get poisoned by the food? What if I fall over when dancing?“. Anxiety will sap the joy out of our lives if we don’t tackle it and we need to experience as much joy as we can; so we need to tell is to sod off!

You write in the book that anxiety has been with you all your life. How did your life change once you started managing your anxiety with specific tools?

It got SO much better! Once I understood it and treated it with the contempt it deserves, I felt much freer. It wasn’t a case of no longer having anxiety, it was that I had tools to manage it and it didn’t impact me in the way that it did. It was the difference between being in a car on a dark, wet night and having no idea how to drive it, to being in a car and knowing that I had the skills at hand to manage the conditions.

Your book contains 40 so-called ways to manage anxiety. Does the reader need to try all 40, or he can choose the ones that fit him?

You don’t need to try all 40! You can if you want of course, but my advice would be to read the book, make a note of the ones you want to try first and then start applying them. If they work, great, keep going, if not try some others.

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I use each of them in different situations and when one way doesn’t work, then I don’t worry too much about it, I just try another and it’s comforting to know that there are another 39 on hand.

How To Tell Depression to Piss Off, your first book translated into Romanian, enjoyed great popularity. Help us understand the connection between anxiety and depression.

It’s wonderful that the depression book was so successful. I’m overjoyed. I loved visiting Bucharest a few years ago and its wonderful book shops, galleries restaurants and theatre. I really want to explore the rest of the country.

Depression and anxiety are best friends and often chum around with each other! Most people I know with depression experience problematic anxiety as well and people with anxiety are more prone to depression.

It’s often the case that one condition impacts on the other. So, if you have depression, then you are quite likely to be anxious about many aspects of your life. If you have anxiety, then the cumulative effect of it can make you feel very depressed – they go in a cycle which we need to break.

Do you think there are people who have never felt anxiety?

I don’t, no. We all feel anxiety, it’s a human trait. We feel it when we start school, when we make a speech in front of people, or when we’re running late for a bus.

It’s important to distinguish between normal situational anxiety like the examples above, and anxiety that can spiral out of control, leave us helpless and disabled. They are related by the feeling of anxiety, but the impact of the latter is far, far greater. The book will help people who ruminate about things, catastrophise and worry about every „small“ aspect of their life.

What are the differences and similarities between fear and anxiety?

That’s a great question! Fear is a reaction to a specific threat, like our sabre toothed tiger again who could kill us in the past or like being on the bus in the film Speed which is out of control and in danger of crashing.

They can feel very similar but fear will subside when the threat is removed, whereas anxiety can continue without a perceived threat, e.g. you’re constantly worried that an extinct sabre toothed tiger will come back to get you!

If you could transmit just one message to someone who doesn’t accept the existence of anxiety, what would it be?

It’s very real and very, very terrifying. I guarantee that someone who doesn’t accept that anxiety exists will know one, two, three, or four people, who are really struggling with it.

One of the problems is that we can feel ashamed to talk about anxiety because we imagine others will think we’re weak. In fact people with anxiety are tremendously strong because they have crippling anxiety AND are still living their lives with it – that’s takes huge strength and even more strength to admit it’s a problem, face it and manage it, and that’s what this book will help them to do.

Pagina de Psihologie este o comunitate de psihologi, psihoterapeuți, psihiatri și oameni pasionați de psihologia relațiilor. Preocuparea față de cultivarea inteligenței relaționale, a sănătății emoționale și interpersonale este exprimată prin articole, evenimente și cărți de specialitate. Editura Pagina de Psihologie publică anual bestseller-uri naționale și internaționale. Iar contributorii noștri sunt specialiști cu experiență clinică și practică terapeutică. La secțiunea cursuri vă oferim atât activități educaționale online, cât și programe de formare continuă și complementară.

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