Sunday, August 2, 2015

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with David Berndt, Ph.D, author of Overcoming Anxiety

David J. Berndt, Ph.D. was an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago where he published or presented over 80 papers and articles before establishing a private practice. Dr. Berndt currently lives in Charleston, S.C. where he also teaches in an adjunct capacity at the College of Charleston. He is best known for his psychological tests The Multiscore Depression Inventory, and the Multiscore Depression Inventory for Children, both from Western Psychological Services.
His latest book is the nonfiction self-help, Overcoming Anxiety.

For More Information
About the Book:

The good news is that anxiety can be overcome without relying on medication. Psychologist David Berndt, Ph.D., in Overcoming Anxiety outlines several self-help methods for management of anxiety and worry. In clear simple language and a conversational style, Dr. Berndt shares with the reader powerful step by step proven techniques for anxiety management. 

You will learn:

·        A Self-hypnosis grounding technique in the Ericksonian tradition.
·        Box Breathing, Seven Eleven and similar breathing techniques for anxiety relief.
·        How to stop or interrupt toxic thoughts that keep you locked in anxiety.
·        How to harness and utilize your worries, so they work for you.
·        Relief from anxiety through desensitization and exposure therapy.
The book was designed to be used alone as self-help or in conjunction with professional treatment Dr. Berndt draws upon his experience as a clinician and academic researcher to give accessible help to the reader who wants to understand and manage their anxiety.

For More Information

  • Overcoming Anxiety is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Welcome to the book club, David.  Can we begin by having you tell us why you wrote your book, Overcoming Anxiety?

David:Thank you, Dorothy, Tracee and Cheryl, for having me drop by the Virtual Book Club for some questions. I wrote the book because I felt that I had learned a lot from my patients over the years about what works. For example it is all well and good to do try and change negative thoughts, but how exactly do you do that? Or if you use a distraction technique, are there times where that might make the anxiety worse?
The feedback from my patients over the years have made me much more effective, and so I wanted to share some of things I have learned with a wider audience, frankly to help more people.
Also, I learned about the publishing side of the business because my wife is a NY Times bestselling author, so I know a little bit about how to get the word out.

What is one way to relieve anxiety?

David: The shortest and quickest answer would be to ask yourself what you have done in the past that worked, and see if you can turn it more systematically into something helpful. Most people, for example, have used a TV or music some other stimulus to distract themselves from angry or anxious feelings. I have a really cool distraction technique in Chapter One that includes elements of self-hypnosis, mindfulness, and distraction.
We can discuss how to use distraction in a simple way. Assuming you are not in any real threat or danger (that would be a bad time to use distraction!), then find something compelling from your past to distract you. If you were on the high school football team and had a key moment that the fans all cheered, that would be a very compelling memory, but don’t just remember it, relive it.
Or let’s say you already sometimes listen to music to distract yourself from an unpleasant feeling or thought. You could do it better and more systematically. Your favorite-song-ever would work better than whatever is in your iPod right now, because it is more likely to move you. You might also burn a CD with uplifting favorite songs that would help in some situations, and your playlist of calming, peaceful songs, when that is needed.
Of course, in the first instance, it would work best if you really loved sports and were good at them. In the music example it is more likely to work if you really love music or in the past at least have found that music helps. The idea is to find a compelling memory or group of memories and mine them for nuggets of really interesting gems.
Is there more than one kind of anxiety disorder?  

David: Sure. The most frequent disorders related to anxiety are the phobias, and what we call Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Some phobias, like fear of clowns, (there really is such a phobia) aren’t likely to interfere with everyday life, but others, like social phobias (fear of being in social situations) or agoraphobia (literally fear of open spaces but real fears being out of your house), can be debilitating. In GAD the anxiety is more pervasive and occurs in many contexts.
There are a host of less frequent but more specialized anxiety-related problems that I will be dealing with in my next book, such as a skin picking disorder (excoriation) hair pulling (Trichotillomania), insomnia, and Complex PTSD. 
One size does not fit all in these disorders when it comes to treatment. For example the kinds of CBT interventions needed for compulsive thoughts are different than the kinds needed for your standard CBT therapy.
Why are there more cases of anxiety in the U.S. than Europe?

David: First, the numbers. In the USA, combining all the types of anxiety disorders, there seems to be about a 28% lifetime incidence, while in Europe that number (the number of people who have any anxiety disorder in their lifetime), is a little over 13%. The number of people currently suffering from anxiety tends to be about half that number (e.g., 6% in one year in Europe).
While I could criticize USA psychiatry as often being prone to making diagnostic errors (being out of line with other psychiatrists worldwide), they seem to be improving in recent decades. So, if it’s not the psychiatrists’ fault, why the difference?
The anxiety diagnosis most discrepant in frequency seems to be PTSD, with social anxiety a close second.  While some of the PTSD in the USA can be secondary to USA involvement in more and prolonged wars that would not account for much of the difference. More likely, it is the greater domestic violence in the USA, where such violence is 3-4 times more common in the states than in Europe.
Social anxiety is a relatively new diagnosis, but it has caught on like wildfire. I think the main difference here, and in other anxiety disorders, is the fact that the USA allows drug manufactures to advertise, something upon which the Europeans look askance. Between antidepressants and antianxiety drugs, a full 25% of women in the USA are medicated in order to reduce the size of their feelings. While in many cases those feelings need to be harnessed and in some cases medicated, I think our culture is far too quick to discredit emotions and disempower women, who bring a different set of talents to the table, including their emotional lives. The profit motive might also be in play for the drug companies.   

Tell us about the Multiscore Depression Inventory?

 David: The Multiscore Depression Inventory grew out of my research in depression early in my career. I knew fairly early on that depression was more complicated than we were treating it with our diagnostic system, and I wanted to know what symptoms played a role in different kinds of depression. At the time there was no way to measure the different components of depression with any accuracy, and all the other tests only gave one measure of depression – how severe it was – and not any way to determine which symptoms were more prominent in an individual.
I knew instinctively that someone who was depressed because of guilt and self-esteem issues might be different from someone else who was predominantly confused and hopeless. I also felt some symptoms might be better than others at predicting response to different treatments.
While it grew out of my need for a better research instrument, we quickly learned that clinicians found it valuable, and I have earned royalties on it for more than 20 years. A colleague and I developed a children’s version, which proved to be even more popular, in part because we had the children write the questions.

What would you like to say to your readers and fans?
David: I would like to thank everyone who bought the book and I hope you find it useful. Only about a third of the people who have anxiety ever get help with it, and if you know someone in that situation, please consider giving them Overcoming Anxiety to help them gain some control over it. For readers who already are in treatment or have family and friends who are, I hope the book will give you some ideas about how you can change the techniques or strategies you currently use, by customizing them or adding a few new techniques to your arsenal.
I value your feedback, just as I have the feedback from my patients, and I would like to hear from you about things that did or did not work, and what you would like to see more of in subsequent books. I plan to write several books for the Psychology Knowledge series, and if you sign up at the Psychology Knowledge Readers Group you can learn about my other books and get free information and pdf reports on this and other topics in psychology.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again to everyone at the Virtual Book Club; we seem to be holding steady at either #1 or #2 in Anxiety and Phobias category for Kindle, and have started selling more print copies since that is at other retailers. I am so pleased that many of the reviewers not only liked the book but found it helpful