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There certainly are a lot of self-help books out there, written by a lot of so-called experts on stress management and life coaching. Which one of the recent avalanche is worth your money?

None of ‘em. The only self-help book worth your money isn’t even a self-help book. It’s usually sold under psychology. It’s “Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy” (1946) written by Viktor Frankl (1905 – 1997), a Nazi concentration camp survivor. Now, honestly — who do you think knows more about getting through stressful times — someone who lived through Auschwitz, or someone who chats with Oprah?

Other self-help books are nice and they can give you ideas or a good laugh, but you can get them for free in a library. This is the only one I recommend actually buying.

Brace Yourself

This isn’t “Chicken Soup of the Soul.” The book has a very grim beginning and a somber tone throughout. Frankl doesn’t dwell on the horrors he witnessed, although what he does mention can be nightmare-inducing. However, he never gets maudlin or even self-pitying. “Bad things happen and that’s the way things are,” is more the tone of voice you’ll find in “Man’s Search for Meaning”.

But if you can find a meaning for your life, it makes getting through the bad times that much easier. Frankl’s meaning was to survive long enough to write a book. He would eventually start the logotherapy movement in psychology, which teaches that the quest to find their own meaning to their lives is the prime driving force behind a person’s actions.

Personal Reaction

I find the book even more comforting than many modern self-help or positive thinking books. I have been through too much

in my personal life to pay much attention to “rah-rah” books (as I call them).  I’ve been robbed, cheated, beaten up and had my home flooded out and then burnt down in the course of my life.  I have endogenous recurring depression.  And I firmly believe I did wish these things upon myself.  These events just happened.  No one’s to blame.  But I am to blame if I keep wallowing in self-pity.

For example, I really didn’t want to get out of bed today.  But I have to go to work.  The meaning is to get money for food.  It might not be a really deep meaning, but it’s meaning enough.

You will find your own meaning when going through incredibly stressful situations.  For example, perhaps you’re stuck in a dead-end retail job (which has also happened to me).  It’s the best job you can find.  You hate it, but you’ve got to bring home a paycheck.  Your meaning is to bring food home to your family.  That’s a noble goal.  You have to focus on that in order to keep from going starkers, sometimes.

And it certainly helps to breathe deeply in these stressful situations.  “Man’s Search for Meaning” helps remind me to keep breathing deeply when life sucks.

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_A_Girl_suffering_form_anxietyHealth anxiety is better known as its former name, hypochondria.  This is a persistent and unwarranted fear of getting a serious health problem like cancer.  This is also one of the most common anxiety disorders in the general population.  According to Professor Tyrer, head of the mental health at the Imperial College London, at least 1% of the UK’s population suffer from health anxiety.

Causes of Health Anxiety

Mental health professionals are not sure why some people develop health anxiety and some do not.  Some people may have witnessed a lingering death of a loved one and fear that the same thing will happen to them.  Others may develop health anxiety as part of another mental illness.

The Internet has been both a blessing and a curse for the medical profession.  Patients can quickly look up symptoms to see if they are serious enough to go to a doctor.  However, they may also leap to conclusions and ask for more appointments, tests and diagnostic imaging than they really need.  The Internet may be one reason why mental health professionals are reporting more cases of health anxiety than ever.

Symptoms of Health Anxiety

It can be difficult for doctors and therapists to diagnose health anxiety because the symptoms are different for each sufferer.  It also can hard to distinguish unfounded worried from real worries.  For example, a person who suffers from migraines may naturally worry if he or she has a brain tumor.  But someone with health anxiety will keep asking for more tests even after the first one or two tests clearly show that a brain tumor is not present.

People with health anxiety need constant reassurance that they do not have a potentially deadly or crippling condition.  Signs that you or a loved one may have health anxiety include:

  • Spending more and more time online looking up medical information
  • Refusing to go to outings with family or friends in case they are sick
  • Going to more doctors and looking for more doctors to go to
  • Talking more and more about your symptoms
  • An inability to be calmed by a diagnostic test showing that they are okay

Treatments for Health Anxiety

The good news about health anxiety is that it is treatable.  There is no one right way to treat hypochondria for everyone.  Patients may need a combination of treatments in order to get back to living a more normal life.  Some patients may be suffering with other anxiety conditions as well as health anxiety.

Treatment is often a combination of drugs and cognitive behavior therapy.  Drugs may be taken for the rest of the patient’s life or for a short time only, depending on the patient’s individual circumstance.  Drugs given for health anxiety include:

  • SSRI antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) or paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants like clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines
  • Beta-blockers, a type of high blood pressure medication

Patients also do well to write about their anxieties in a special journal.  This helps to relieve stress.  It can also be shared with doctors and therapists.

Links for More Information

http://psychcentral.com/news/2008/11/17/calming-health-anxiety/3354.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/27/health-anxiety-on-the-increase

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hypochondria/DS00841/DSECTION=symptoms