Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective

Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective

Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective

Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective

Excerpt

The phenomenon of anxiety has engaged the attention of writers for centuries. In recent years, a flood of publications has addressed this subject; and it has even provided the title for Leonard Bernstein symphony, "The Age of Anxiety." The importance of anxiety in both normal and abnormal behavior is highlighted by the central role ascribed to it by various learning and psychoanalytic theories.

This volume is an attempt to understand anxiety from a somewhat different perspective. The main thesis is that a central process in adaptation is cognition, or information processing. When there is a disturbance in this central mechanism of cognition, there is a consequent disturbance in feeling and behavior. Moreover, our cognitive perspective posits that correction of a disturbance in thinking will relieve disturbances in feeling and behavior.

Attributing a central role to cognition or information processing raises several questions. How did an apparatus develop that could, on the one hand, so magnificently enable human beings to adapt to the perils of the environment, and, on the other hand, plunge them into untoward suffering in the form of anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders? Further, how can presumed disturbances in information processing account for the variegated symptoms of the anxiety disorders? Finally, how can one go about reversing such disorders?

The aim of this book reflects a relatively recent change in the Zeitgeist of the behavioral sciences. From an exclusive emphasis on affect, motivation, and behavior, concern has shifted to the acquisition, sorting, interpretation, and storage of information. This change--the so-called cognitive revolution--has had an impact on such diverse disciplines as anthropology, social psychology, political science, clinical psychology and psychoanalysis.

This book is divided into two parts. The first part, by myself, Aaron T. Beck, elaborates the clinical picture of anxiety disorders and phobias and presents an explanatory model to account for the rich complexity of these phenomena. The second part, by Gary Emery, details the therapeutic prin-

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