Today I would like to highlight two pioneers in anxiety management. These doctors offered insight and important techniques for those suffering from anxiety and panic disorders at a time when the options for treatment were limited. Prior to the introduction of Serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), there were few medications available to effectively treat anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines offered short-term relief but carried the risk of dependence and other side effects that were not always suitable for long-term management. Although advancements have been made in the treatment of anxiety disorders, similar cognitive behavioral techniques are still being used in conjunction with medication or in situations where medications are not tolerated in order to manage these conditions and allow people to regain their enjoyment of life.
Dr. Arthur B. Hardy ( 1913-1991) became a well-known psychiatrist in the 1970’s for the help and hope he offered many individuals who were housebound due to severe anxiety (agoraphobia). He appeared on many popular television shows such as Phil Donahue, Oprah Whinfrey, the Today Show, and 60 minutes, raising awareness and causing many people who had suffered silently to experience a sense of relief knowing that they were not alone.
His methods were influenced by the early founders of cognitive behavior therapy, and he developed an intensive program called TERRAP (acronym for territorial apprehension) that involved comprehensive cognitive/behavior therapy encompassing education, relaxation, desensitization and assertiveness field work, discussion of how thinking patterns affect behavior, and communication. By having people practice in real-life settings, he helped many to leave the security of their homes and expand their comfort zones. His compassion was evident as he often went to people’s homes if they were unable to come to him. He developed a workbook and audio recordings that people were able to use to help calm themselves down when they were experiencing feelings of panic. He helped found the Phobia Society of American (now Anxiety Disorder Association of American).
Dr. Claire Weekes (1903-1990) was an Australian general practitioner and health writer who is well-known for her books (Self Help For Your Nerves in 1962 and several others in subsequent years) on dealing with anxiety, panic, and what she called nervous illness. She believed that people suffered from these as the result of sensitization, bewilderment, and fear. She applied her scientific research background to her studies of anxiety and created a comprehensive program which included facing the feared situation, accepting the feeling of panic, floating through it, and letting time pass. Her books have been recommended by many professionals specializing in anxiety disorders and have no doubt provided comfort to many people over the years. Her first-hand experience with anxiety along with her thoughtful analysis of these disorders provide insights that are still useful today.