"Here's what's worked: nothing." Scott Stossel writes with resignation in the cover article for the current issue of The Atlantic, "Surviving Anxiety." (Inside the magazine it's headlined "My Anxious, Twitchy, Phobic (Somehow Successful) Life".) The story, adapted from Stossel's forthcoming book, tells of his life with anxiety disorder; how he remains high-functioning despite it, and maybe in ways because of it.
The Atlantic editors invited readers to send in stories of their own experiences with anxiety. We said that "several" stories would be selected for publication on TheAtlantic.com. As you'll see by the length of this post, I failed handsomely at paring it down to several.
We got so many interesting submissions, and there was even more that I wanted to share than is here. Rather than run three or four people's stories in full, we decided to run parts of many. Forty-three. I also pulled salient quotes from most of the excerpts along the left margin. People interpreted the writing prompt very broadly, so some of it is lighthearted, and some of it is tragic. There is some advice on what works, how to keep perspective, and what makes things worse. In aggregate I hope it reads like a mixtape that reflects how widespread all of this is and how deeply it resonates.
I'd like these to mostly speak for themselves, but I will call out a couple recurring points. Anxiety is not a choice. Don't tell people with anxiety to "stop worrying." Do reassure them. Don't leave them alone. Talk about your anxiety with friends and family. Be attuned and empathetic to it in others. Own your own.
Unlike Stossel, many people have found that certain treatments, behaviors, and ways of thinking about their anxiety can be helpful. Okay, here are your stories.