Bibliophile | Psychiatrist Dr Mark Cross explores the nature of ‘Anxiety’

by Dr Mark Cross
ABC Books

Quite an interesting time for this book to be published, and by someone who knows how it feels to suffer from anxiety. Psychiatrist Mark Cross has suffered from anxiety all his life, his mother and grandmother suffered and now he treats patients with the most common mental health condition in Australia.

Mark’s anxiety was compounded by an early awareness that he was different and by his teen years, he knew he was gay – something that was both illegal and considered a perversion at the time. He has spent years in therapy even though he admits that at a rational level, “I know that the fearful, negative thoughts that circle my consciousness like buzzards at a feeding frenzy are just that – my own thoughts”.

The book is full of his personal and clinical examples that explore the nature of anxiety, the multi-layered causes, treatments and lifestyle changes that can help. As a psychiatrist, he sometimes prescribes medication and he details these medicines as well as their side-effects. He also looks at some of the 150 different types of psychotherapy and how to navigate mental health systems.

It is interesting that when learning to manage his anxiety, one of the things that helped was to stop thinking about things as binaries such as strong versus weak when it comes to mental health issues. He also maintains that normalising mental illness as just another illness rather would help those too ashamed to get help.

This is a timely book – with fires, followed by floods, followed by the worldwide plague, there is plenty of things that can cause anxiety at the moment. This is over and above other stressors including, as he points out, intolerance and bigotry and the need to hide one’s sexuality causing high levels of anxiety which is even higher in those of minority backgrounds.

“We need this book” Magda Szubanski says in her foreword to the book. “As I write this, Australia is on fire. As a consequence, anxiety on both national and personal levels will without question, escalate … Although not written in response to a national crisis, Mark’s book is an expert, deeply compassionate, practical guide to anxiety, in all its manifestations.”

Lezly Herbert

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