“Bibliotherapy” for High Anxiety and Panic

Hello Dr. Burns,

My name is Robert. I want to thank you. I WAS suffering from high amounts of anxiety and panic for weeks straight, until now. I have been reading your book, When Panic Attacks. I was fortunate enough to come across the “What-If Technique” and applied it to myself. I found that my anxiety was coming from my insecurities about not being good enough for my girlfriend. Ever since I realized that, all the panic and fear has gone away and I feel much closer to being on top of the world.

hank you so much. I could read your book all day if I had the time and not get tired of it! I’m glad that God helped me find your book.

Once again thank you.


Dr. Burns’ response

This is great, Robert! I greatly appreciated hearing from you, and also your willingness to share your experience on my website.

One small teaching point is that there are 40 techniques for defeating anxiety in my book, When Panic Attacks. You never know which technique is going to work for a particular individual, so I use a lot of trial and error and have the philosophy of “failing as fast as I can” when I am working with someone who is depressed or anxious.

Here’s why. Let’s say that the 16th technique is the one that works for a patient, and the first 15 methods were not helpful at all. If I can try and fail with four or five techniques at every therapy session, then within four or five sessions we’ll discover the technique that works. For some individuals, it might be the Experimental Technique, or the Hidden Emotion Technique, or Cognitive Flooding, or the Feared Fantasy or Acceptance Paradox, or a Shame Attacking Exercise. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to predict which therapy technique will be effective.

But once you know the technique that works for someone, it will usually ALWAYS work for that person. This is vitally important information because no one is entitled to feel happy and confident all the time. We all fall into black holes of insecurity and self-doubt from time to time. This is an inevitable part of being human.

But you don’t need to be afraid of these mini-relapses if you know how to deal with them. There are several aspects to Relapse Prevention Training, but one of them is simply knowing the technique that works the best for you!

Congratulations on defeating your feelings of anxiety and panic, and thanks again for your kind and thoughtful email.

By the way, “Bibliotherapy” means “reading therapy.” Research indicates that many individuals struggling with depression and anxiety can be helped by reading one of my books, such as Feeling Good or When Panic Attacks. This is really good news. However, no single treatment method works for everybody, and that’s why it can often be helpful to find a skillful and compassionate therapist to speed your recovery.

I am also developing some powerful new electronic tools to help therapists and the general public as well, and will definitely put an announcement on this website as soon as I have something available for people to try out!

Best regards,

David Burns, MD