Story Idea: Strategies to Control Anxiety

New Book Examines Whole Brain Strategies to Relieve Fear and Stress

Anxiety can interfere with life on many levels, including your work and home lives. Maybe you get anxious about shopping with crowds of people. Maybe getting together with family members makes you anxious because you feel they judge you. Fear and anxiety both result from the part of the brain—the amygdala—designed to help us deal with danger. Fear is typically associated with a clear, present and identifiable threat, whereas anxiety occurs in the absence of immediate peril, when we think about what might happen. 

There are ways to bypass your brain’s “fight or flight” circuitry, says Saint Mary’s College psychology professor Catherine M. Pittman, a practicing clinical psychologist and co-author of the new book “Extinguishing Anxiety: Whole Brain Strategies to Relieve Fear and Stress.”  Pittman encourages the use of exposure-based therapy. “Just as physical therapy promotes healing in an injured body, exposure therapy promotes learning in the brain,” Pittman says. “If you suffer from anxiety, your life will improve immeasurably if you understand your anxiety on the neuropsychological level and take steps to gain control. Once the mystery of how something works is revealed, its power over you is reduced.”

Many people have used this book to improve their lives, Pittman says. A man who suffered from agoraphobia, an extreme anxiousness of being in crowded or enclosed public spaces, is attending church services again after several years. A woman who had missed a lot of work because of her intense fear of driving is back at her desk.

In a novel approach, psychologist Pittman wrote the book with Elizabeth M. Karle, MLIS, a library assistant at Saint Mary’s College who has overcome panic disorder and agoraphobia.

Media: If you are interested in interviewing Pittman, contact Gwen O'Brien, director of media relations, at gobrien@saintmarys.edu or (574) 284-4579. To see how Pittman performs in a TV interview, click here.

About Saint Mary’s College: Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., is a four-year, Catholic, women’s institution offering five bachelor’s degrees and more than 30 major areas of study. Saint Mary’s College has six nationally accredited academic programs: social work, art, music, teacher education, chemistry and nursing. For the second year in a row Saint Mary’s College ranks as one of the nation’s top 100 liberal arts colleges in, U.S. News & World Report’s 2010 annual survey. Founded in 1844, Saint Mary’s is a pioneer in the education of women, and is sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Cross.