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Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic
By Reneau Z. Peurifoy

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 Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic

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Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic
By Reneau Z. Peurifoy
ISBN: 0446692778
Genre: Inspirational & Self-Help

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Chapter Excerpt from: Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic , by Reneau Z. Peurifoy


What a pleasure it is to be able to update a work that has stood the test of time. In looking back over the last twenty years, it is amazing to see the advances that have been made in our understanding of anxiety disorders. When I first wrote Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic, research into anxiety disorders had just begun. At that time the main focus was panic disorder, and the first edition focused on that problem. With the second edition, I expanded the book to include the other types of anxiety disorders, but many of the examples still focused on panic disorder. Much has been learned over the past ten years, and in this edition I have updated the various lessons to include this, along with more examples of the other types of anxiety disorders.

The evolution of this book began decades ago when I was beginning my career as a therapist. I heard two people on the radio who suffered from what was then called agoraphobia but is now known as panic disorder. Their story intrigued me. I soon discovered that there weren't many people working with agoraphobia at that time. I found a group in another city working with agoraphobia and spent a week there studying their approach. This included visiting support groups they had organized for agoraphobics.

Upon returning to Sacramento, I held two lectures where I shared my newfound knowledge and was surprised to find that enough people attended to enable me to begin two therapy groups of my own. Within two weeks it became evident that the approach I had studied was woefully inadequate. This is when I began developing the program that has evolved into the one described in this book. I went to a local university and reviewed all of the current research on agoraphobia. This was relatively easy, because the explosion of research that is available today had not yet begun; there also weren't many good books written on the subject. Still, I took what I had found, combined it with material from several workshops I had conducted, and put together a set of twenty lessons. After several years of refining this material, I wrote the first edition of Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic, which was published in 1988.

It was gratifying to see not only individuals, but also self-help groups and therapists across the nation use the book as the basic text for their groups and report back how well it was working. This new edition includes many suggestions made by groups using the first edition as well as new insights I have gained while using the original work with my own clients.

As with any author, my work and ideas are an extension of work done by many people. My main goal while writing this book was to produce a practical manual that would help people struggling with anxiety live full and satisfying lives. As a result, I have not used extensive footnotes to credit my sources; I felt it would detract from my overall purpose. Instead, I will discuss a little of my background and acknowledge those sources of inspiration who have most directly influenced this work.

When I was a child, my family had a dog, several cats, and a parrot. I raised chickens and rabbits and collected insects. By the time I entered high school, a keen interest in animal behavior had developed. I was especially fascinated by the work of Konrad Lorenz, the founder of modern ethology (the study of animal behavior). In college I majored in biology and graduated with minors in chemistry and math. I then studied to be a teacher and taught junior high and high school science and math for five years before deciding to become a therapist. During the time when I trained to be a teacher, self-directed learning modules were in vogue. Both this training and my experience as a teacher are reflected in the organization of this work.

During this time I was also actively involved in what was then referred to as the human potential movement. Many of the exercises that are included in the Recommended Activities evolved out of things I learned during this period.

When I began my training to be a therapist, I was especially interested in hypnosis and the techniques of neurolinguistic programming. As my training progressed, however, I was introduced to theory and techniques from most of the major schools of psychology. This opened up many new doors for me. In my work as a therapist, I draw from many different schools of psychology. The strongest source of influence for this work comes from the ideas developed by cognitive psychologists such as Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck. Adlerian psychology provides a strong secondary source of inspiration.

In closing I would like to add that I have always been involved in teaching in one form or another. One of my greatest thrills has always been when a struggling student, a person in therapy, or a workshop participant grasps a new concept or skill that opens up new vistas for that person. My sincere hope is that this work will help you master ideas and skills that will enable you to travel the path to freedom.


This book describes a self-help program that has been used successfully by many people. For good results, the program has to be used correctly. The following guidelines describe how to achieve the most success possible.

Do not read the book from front to back quickly like a novel. Instead, spend at least one week on each lesson. Since each lesson builds on the ones before, do not skip around unless a lesson directs you to do so. If you wish to preview the program, read the contents and take a day or two to skim through the book. This will give you a general idea of the book's format and the areas in which you will be working. Then start with the first lesson and work through the book in the systematic way in which it is designed to be used.

When you start a new lesson, read the headings to get an overview of the material. Then read it word by word at your usual rate. Read each lesson at least three times; more, if you find the information difficult. The second and third readings will increase your understanding of the material and reveal ideas that were missed during the first reading.

Overcoming anxiety-related problems requires more than a general understanding of ideas. Your goal is to internalize the information and skills presented in each lesson, to make them a natural and automatic part of your behavior. The Recommended Activities play a key role in this process. The more time and energy you spend on them, the more successful you will be.

There may be times when you could spend several weeks on a lesson. While it is important to be thorough, it is also important to keep your momentum going. Spend no more than two weeks on a lesson and do as many of the Recommended Activities as possible. After completing the program, you can spend additional time on those areas where you feel more work is needed.

This may sound like a lot of work; it is. But keep in mind that it took all your life to develop the behaviors and thinking patterns that produced your condition. It will take time, energy, and commitment to learn new and effective ways of thinking and acting. If you work through the material in the manner outlined, chances are excellent that you will be as successful as the many others who have used this program to overcome severe anxiety.

Excerpted from Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic , by Reneau Z. Peurifoy . Copyright (c) 1988, 1992, 1995, and 2005 by Reneau Z. Peurifoy, M.A., M.F.T. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

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