Book Review: 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.
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.
What other people say
Here are some of the things other people say about “Hope And Help For Your Nerves”:
For me, I never related to the panic attacks that I heard a lot about. There seemed to be a blurred line, but I never felt like I was dying, or like my heart was going to explode. I had cold sweats, and racing pulse, and heart beating out of my chest, but it lasted for hours, not minutes and panic attacks didnt sound like what I had, although MENTALLY I was in a full on panic often. This book clarifies the difference and the reasons why they are the same.
Understanding that this illness is all about the sympathetic nervous system being out of balance and fueled by thinking patterns that are destructive was huge for me. To learn to let a thought float, to accept it, and pass through it, no matter how uncomfortable it was was pure poetry to understand.
This book stands apart from ANYTHING else I have yet found.
(You can read the rest of this review here.)
And here is another excerpt from a review:
I connected with absolutely everything in the book. Medicine hadn't worked. Psychotherapy didn't help me. Religion wasn't paying off. Meditation couldn't touch my severe panic states.
Claire Weekes is to be commended for many things. I wish, deep down in my heart, that there was a way for me to contact her to let her know that she saved my sanity and probably my life too. The book was filled with information that made total sense to me. She described what was causing the anxiety states and precisely what was happening in my body. She also repeated that I'd never die from a panic attack. Actually, not a soul has ever died from a panic attack. It sure feels like you're about to die or lose your mind. But have faith as help is around the corner.
I would never suggest a book to help cure an illness unless I knew 100% that the information was true and helpful. I'm telling you that this book saved my life, saved my relationships and kept me from even thinking I was crazy. Less than one week after reading the book, I realized I had not had any panic attacks. I feared that they would sort of pop out of the blue and grab me when I wasn't watching out. But Claire Weekes even described this type of pre-panic anxiety states. Months later I had mastered how to deal with anxious situations and how to breathe through and accept my panic-should it happen again.
It doesn't matter how long you've been suffering from your anxiety disorder or panic state. It's not a situation where the length of time you've spent with the illness will determine the length of your recovery time. This is one of those special freebies in life. Everyone wins by reading Hope and Help for Your Nerves. I still find time to read it and I'm reminded each time that I'm going to be fine and that I will never die from one of these panic attacks and my fear of having an attack in public isn't realistic now that I've read the book.
If you want to read more unbiased reviews from real readers, click on this link.
You might also like to check out Dr Claire Weekes' audio CD Pass Through Panic.
This CD includes 8 radio lectures given by Dr Weekes. Listener reviews are almost all extremely positive (35 out of 41 gave it 5*****) .... though one of the professional reviewers didn't like Dr Weekes' "authoritarian tone" .... but others described Dr Weekes' on this CD as having a "strong, decisive but always reassuring, calm voice" and being generally helpful.
Here is another audio CD from Dr Claire Weekes that you might like: Freedom From Nervous Suffering.
This one is in stock at Amazon, and includes more specific examples that should help you understand the concepts Dr Weekes teaches, and learn to apply them for yourself.