A comprehensive and accessible exploration of anxiety, from a leading neuroscientist and the author of Synaptic Self
Collectively, anxiety disorders are our most prevalent psychiatric problem, affecting about forty million adults in the United States. In Anxious, Joseph LeDoux, whose NYU lab has been at the forefront of research efforts to understand and treat fear and anxiety, explains the range of these disorders, their origins, and discoveries that can restore sufferers to normalcy.
LeDoux’s groundbreaking premise is that we’ve been thinking about fear and anxiety in the wrong way. These are not innate states waiting to be unleashed from the brain, but experiences that we assemble cognitively. Treatment of these problems must address both their conscious manifestations and underlying non-conscious processes. While knowledge about how the brain works will help us discover new drugs, LeDoux argues that the greatest breakthroughs may come from using brain research to help reshape psychotherapy.
A major work on one of our most pressing mental health issues, Anxious explains the science behind fear and anxiety disorders.
"A rigorous, in-depth guide to the history, philosophy, and scientific exploration of this widespread emotional state . . . [LeDoux] offers a magisterial review of the role of mind and brain in the generation of unconscious defense responses and consciously expressed anxiety. . . . [His] charming personal asides give an impression of having a conversation with a world expert." -Nature
“Every age believes itself to be the age of anxiety, as Auden’s famous poem first put it. But in his new book, Anxious, the neuroscientist and writer Joseph LeDoux suggests that that has never been a stronger claim to make than it is now . . . . If this is the age of anxiety, LeDoux is our Lewis and our Clark: It was LeDoux who laid down the first map of what is called the brain’s ‘fear circuit,’ the regions—centered on the amygdala and its adjacent structures—that together give rise to our ability to respond to threats and danger. But with his new book, he wants to redraw that map.”
—Casey Schwartz, New York Magazine
“Mr. LeDoux offers a careful tour through the current neuroscience of fear and anxiety. . . . [Anxious] will reward the informed reader.”
—Leonore Tiefer, The Wall Street Journal
“LeDoux presents a rigorous, in-depth guide to the history, philosophy and scientific exploration of this widespread emotional state. . . . Neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers and psychiatrists will find this exquisitely referenced book particularly useful. It is also a must-read for young investigators, and anyone perusing the footnotes will be rewarded with an insider’s view of the state and evolution of anxiety research. LeDoux’s charming personal asides give an impression of having a conversation with a world expert. LeDoux ends on a high note, describing how cutting-edge research on the neural substrates of anxiety is being translated into new approaches for psychiatric treatment.”
—Susanne Ahmari, Nature
“LeDoux is not only a pioneer in the neurobiological analysis of fear in animals but also a scholarly and accessible writer. In Anxious, he systematically builds on his earlier works, covering with aplomb a vast literature on emotion, memory, attention, and consciousness. With that said, Anxious is a significant and important departure from the author’s earlier views on the neural underpinnings of fear. . . . In Anxious, LeDoux challenges the reader to think differently about the neural origins of fear and its disorders. In doing so, he offers a masterful synthesis of animal and human work and a novel roadmap for future work in both the laboratory and the clinic.”
—Stephen Maren, Science
“Anxious is an extraordinarily ambitious, provocative, challenging, and important book. Drawing on the latest research in neuro-science (including work in his own laboratory), LeDoux provides explanations of the origins, nature, and impact of fear and anxiety disorders.”
—Glenn Altschuler, Psychology Today
“Drawing on years of research, neuroscientist LeDoux delves into the subject of anxiety and fear, depicting both emotions as cognitive constructs. . . . [Anxious] will open up new worlds of thinking and feeling”
“Wonderfully erudite, informative, and splendidly well written. Helps to explain and prevent the kinds of debilitating anxieties all of us face in this increasingly stressful world. Any author who can weave Leonard Bernstein, W. H. Auden, The Rolling Stones, and Alfred E. Neuman into a single illustrative example is on my short list for favorite writers ever.”
—Daniel J. Levitin, author of The Organized Mind and This Is Your Brain On Music
“Joseph LeDoux [is] the William James of our era. . . . This marvelous book is science at its best. It traces the evolution of a key set of scientific insights based on progressively better empirical data, most of these derived from LeDoux’s brilliant studies, and applies these new insights to a family of clinically important phenomenon. Anxious is an absolute must read for clinicians and basic scientists as well as for anyone else interested in anxiety and its disorders.”
—Eric R. Kandel, Kavli Professor and University Professor, Columbia University; Senior Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; author of In Search of Memory and The Age of Insight; recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
“An exquisite and unique attempt to truly relate how neural cells lead to felt conscious states in the human mind—the toughest problem in all of science. LeDoux has thrown down the gauntlet and set the standard. I wish all of us working on the problem luck trying to beat this analysis.”
—Michael Gazzaniga, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Tales from Both Sides of the Brain, Human, and The Social Brain
“Anxious is a profound, exciting and immensely useful work about one of our most troubling—and puzzling—emotions. Joseph LeDoux takes us behind the scenes of our own minds to show us not only how anxiety is constructed in the brain but how it can be deconstructed. This is neuroscience at its very best: helpful and hopeful without a hint of hyperbole.”
—Mark Epstein, M.D., author of Thoughts without a Thinker and The Trauma of Everyday Life
“In this tour de force, LeDoux artfully guides the reader from the unconscious defensive system, through attention and memory, to the conscious experience of fear and anxiety. His traverse from the unconscious to the conscious experience of emotion is rich in scientific detail and yet exquisitely readable. LeDoux completes his masterpiece with provocative discussions of therapies for anxiety. This book is a fascinating revelation of the evolution in LeDoux’s own scientific thinking and in the field at large and is a must read for any student of learning, memory or emotion.”
—Michelle G. Craske, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Director, Anxiety Disorders Research Center, UCLA
“LeDoux is a true leader in the field of cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology, yet he also has an uncanny ability to write beautifully and clearly. . . . A must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of the mind and brain, and how an understanding of psychology and neuroscience can change ourselves and the world around us!”
—Kerry J. Ressler, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University; Scientific Council Chair, Anxiety and Depression Association of America; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Member, National Academy of Sciences
About the Author:
Joseph LeDoux is the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science at New York University, where he is a member of the Center for Neural Science and the Department of Psychology. He directs the Emotional Brain Institute at New York University and at the Nathan Kline Institute, and is the author of Synaptic Self and The Emotional Brain. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, LeDoux lives in Brooklyn, New York.