Dread on Arrival
My Age of Anxiety:
Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind
by Scott Stossel
$27.95 List Price
I always used to feel sorry for myself, having suffered four debilitating episodes of clinical depression and many years of moderate-to-severe dysthymia. No longer. In fact, I feel rather fortunate not to be Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, whose lifetime of psychic agony—suffering is too weak a word—is chronicled in excruciating, enthralling detail in My Age of Anxiety.
The torments of Job were nothing compared with Stossel’s. Two-year-old Scott would throw “epic tantrums” in which he “lay on the floor, screaming and writhing and smashing my head on the ground, sometimes for hours at a time.” A few anguished years later, his afflictions began assuming their permanent shape. Constant emetophobia (fear of vomiting) set in, along with an almost equally frequent and tormenting fear of losing control of his bowels. Neither of these terrors has ever left him in peace, except briefly.
Nor has acute separation anxiety. In first grade, when his mother started taking night classes, he fled all babysitters. For several years after that, he paced his bedroom agitatedly every night, convinced that his parents had abandoned him, until his father came home from work around six thirty.
The dreary litany of fear expanded throughout his childhood—disastrous first days at swimming lessons, baseball or soccer practice, and sleepaway camp, all culminating in inconsolable outbursts of tears, driven by the panic that he was being abandoned. In most cases, he never returned. The onset of actual separation from his parents—going off to enroll for his freshman year in college—went no