Hope and Help For Your Nerves – Dr Claire Weekes
This is one of the best self-help books, ever, for anxiety and panic!
Originally published in 1962, it’s been continually in print every since, with variations & additions. Hope and Help For Your Nerves is the title of the most recent US edition.
Dr Claire Weekes has also written several other excellent books for anxiety sufferers, such as “Simple, Effective Treatment of Agoraphobia” – but most of these older books are out of print. You might be able to pick up a second hand copy – if you can, get any or all of her books, and read them.
You will probably find her language & way of talking a bit old-fashioned – but please don’t let that put you off.
People these days don’t talk much about “nerves” or “nervous illness” or “nervous suffering”….. now we talk about “anxiety disorders”, “GAD”, “clinical depression”, “mixed anxiety and depression”.
Dr Weekes does include sections about panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and agoraphobia, as well as “nervous illness” – which more or less equivalent to Generalised Anxiety Disorder or GAD (in modern terminology).
But the more general term “nervous illness” might be more accurate…. Modern psychiatrists are now beginning to acknowledge that anxiety and depression are not always completely separate disorders. Anxiety and depression often go together – and both of these conditions were part of the older category “nervous illness”.
Sensitization and nervous exhaustion
Dr Claire Weekes explains the common cause of all these anxiety disorders, as well as the differences. Just understanding this can be tremendously helpful, especially as anxiety feeds so much on itself – it is often the fear of panic or anxiety symptoms that is the true problem.
Freedom From Nervous Suffering
Audio book that explains Dr Weekes’ steps to recovery.
She explains how anxiety arises from sensitization of the nerves, most likely under the influence of some type of shock or stress – and how this can lead to “nervous exhaustion” and depletion. Sensitization means that your system begins to over-react, and what might have been a minor trigger or challenge, now becomes a major problem.
Her grasp of this mechanism anticipates another modern diagnosis – Adrenal Fatigue, or Adrenal Exhaustion – which also arises from prolonged stress. Dr Weekes explains that “nervous exhaustion” does not necessarily lead to “nervous illness” – it is only when a person gets stuck in fear of the symptoms of stress (or adrenal over-activation) that an anxiety disorder arises.
This is not under voluntary control – it is how your involuntary nervous system is now set up – and it doesn’t mean you are weak or flaky, it’s completely automatic.
This is not to say there is nothing you can do about it – Dr Weekes goes on to explain the simple steps to recovery.
Steps to recovery
While these steps are simple, they do take persistence and patience (with yourself) – your system has become conditioned to react in this sensitized, anxious way, and it takes time, understanding and persistence to reverse the process. In fact, allowing time for full recovery and not getting impatient with yourself is Dr Weekes’ 4th step in recovery.
Here are Dr Weekes’ 4 steps to overcoming anxiety:
FACING the things you fear (instead of avoiding) – but in the right way, with appropriate help. (Fighting the fear, says Dr Weekes, will only add to your exhaustion and make the problem worse, by triggering more adrenalin.)
ACCEPTING the symptoms, the fear, the situation. This will begin to reduce the triggering of adrenalin.
FLOATING above or through the fear – not resisting or fighting.
LETTING TIME PASS – allowing time for full recovery, because full recovery depends on repeated experiences of being in the situations you fear, and learning that you are ok, you can cope.
Now, you might be tempted to dismiss this as too simple, or something you have heard before. But Dr Weekes explains each of these steps in a way that you can put into practice. This really is a self-help book – you can do it all yourself (though good support will make it easier). This summary can give you a brief overview – but it isn’t a substitute for reading the book and working through the steps yourself.
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