By S. Rachman Psychology Press, 2004 Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H. on Feb 16th 2006
Anxiety is an
accomplished member of the family of books, called, collectively: "Clinical Psychology: A Modular
Course". The books comprising the
family are intended, broadly, to form, in integrated fashion, a comprehensive
resource in clinical psychology. S.
Rachman, the author of Anxiety, is a researcher in the area of anxiety
disorders, who is anchored, academically, to the University of British
Columbia, Canada. Rachman's cardinal
purpose in penning Anxiety is to inform readers regarding surging
advances, pertinent to understanding and treating anxiety disorders.
Rachman's primary focus is on anxiety as a psychological
phenomenon. The book at heart is a very
well crafted, psychologically rooted examination of anxiety. Although Rachman's sharp focus is on a
psychological analysis, heavily biologically-tinged threads may also contribute
vitally to the weaving of the tapestry, of anxiety. Indeed, an important lesson to be learned from the book is that
theories purporting to explicate particular anxiety disorders may oftentimes be
enmeshed by prominent cognitive as well as biological strands, which may become
entangled in knotty, scientific uncertainty.
Medical scientific knowledge of many aspects of anxiety remains,
lamentably, threadbare. Rachman's book
may, hopefully, galvanize renewed scientific enthusiasm for further research
concerning anxiety, and perhaps provide some structure for fruitful
investigative forays, into this somewhat amorphous realm. Certainly, the need to collect far more
evidence, regarding this fascinating, and still rather fallow, field of
research endeavor, is compelling. And,
it may be added, appropriately, that this need importantly extends to the
developing of effectual treatments, for particular anxiety disorders.
Rachman writes with a finely honed academic pen, which has been wielded
superbly to create a valuable contribution to the academic literature
enveloping clinical psychology. A
clearly discernible, didactic type current flows prominently through the text's
pages, which may delectably provide abundant food for intellectual digestion, by
mental health researchers and academics; there are, as well, numerous morsels,
which may stimulate, if not sate, the professional appetites of clinicians
bound, in some capacity, to the region of mental health. The book, however, in
style and substance, is tilted steeply, away from lay readers.
Structurally, the body of the book is composed of ten, analytically
hewed chapters. Adjoining the textual
body are listings, of selected books ("Suggested reading"), and
multitudinous academic references, fused to anxiety, which may gladden those
seeking further immersion in the academically choppy and turbid waters of
anxiety. The respective chapters are
structured to include a succinct "Summary". Further contributing to the excellence of the text are
well-designed "tables" and "figures", and, also, a goodly
number of anecdotal snippets, grafted interestingly into the textual
At least in a generalized way, the psychological focused analysis, of
anxiety, undertaken very capably by Rachman, may contribute helpfully to
spirited discussion concerning anxiety.
The academically thorny field of anxiety research contains a thicket of
theories; and experimental and clinical data, of a germane nature, continue to
accumulate. A full elucidation of many
of the profundities of anxiety, and the possible bridging, or at least
narrowing, of the formidable chasm, separating biological and psychological
explanations of anxiety disorders, remain unfinished academic tasks. Plainly, much remains unexplained, regarding
anxiety disorders; and much remains to be learned.
To his considerable credit, Rachman succeeds commendably in analytically
traversing, in highly competent fashion, the expansive length and breadth of
extant research data, tied to anxiety.
Overall, Rachman does a very good job of identifying important strengths
and weaknesses, of some of the multitude of fractious theories entwined with
research efforts glued to anxiety.
In chapter one, Rachman artfully etches the lineaments giving form to
the nature of "anxiety", and further delineates, adroitly, the
contours bounding the core nature of "fear". A laconic explanation, of multifarious
factors impinging, potentially, on anxiety, comprises the essence of the
substantive content, of chapter two.
The author, in chapter three, familiarizes the reader, albeit in a
rudimentary way, with sundry schools of theoretical thought interjoined with
anxiety, encompassing, notably:
possible interlinkages, joining anxiety and cognitive concepts; the
arguable impacting of psychoanalytic theory, on anxiety; and, not least,
biological theories which may, possibly, be explanatory with respect to
anxiety. The cynosure of the next
(fourth) chapter is a highly adept dissection and examination of the
conditioning theory of fear. Brief
discussion of specific phobias is also enfolded into the chapter's contents.
unraveling of the enigmatic nature of panic is the crux of chapter five, with a
dichotomous focus on a cognitive theory of panic, in contradistinction to a
biological explanation ascribed to panic disorder. Agoraphobia, in chapter six, tersely garners Rachman's rapt
attention, while careful scrutiny of puzzling aspects of compulsive behavior
and obsessions is at the heart of chapter seven. The variant of anxiety known as "social anxiety" is
given centerstage attention, in chapter eight, with discussion being rooted
deeply in a cognitive theoretical analysis of social anxiety. The text's penultimate (ninth) chapter
expounds, instructively, on the contentious concept of generalized anxiety
disorder. In the concluding (tenth)
chapter, Rachman, in his characteristic workaday way, digs into the terrain of
post-traumatic stress disorder, striving ardently, and gingerly, to unearth
some of its psychological perplexities.
The toilsome spadework, of Rachman, does, in fact, unearth deposits, of
psychological import, reaching to:
emotional processing, of traumatic events; a cognitive entrenched
theory; and a dual representation model, of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rachman's illumining book shows provides a revealing snapshot, of
current anxiety related research.
Experimental reports on anxiety are released continually. With this principal caveat, persons involved
professionally with mental health work, especially those with some research
nexus to this enthralling field, should be absorbingly edified, by the book's
Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law
degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from
Columbia University. His area of
special professional interest is healthcare.