In yesterday's edition of The Times magazine, journalist William Leith writes about his experience at the 'anxiety retreat', ran by Charles Linden, developer of the 'Linden Method'. The article begins with Leith's account of his anxiety and his anxious journey to the four-day anxiety retreat, ran by Linden.
I don't mean to doubt Leith's anxiety - from the article it sounds like he has mild OCD. He says that he is anxious about the economy, and has suffered two panic attacks. He says he is on the borderline, and 'can cope'. It's what he says, though, that makes me wonder if he has any empathy towards sufferers of such a disabling disorder.
The Linden method has treated over 150,000 people. For £2,800, sufferers of anxiety can go on a four-day retreat to overcome it. The article describes Linden's own experience with an anxiety disorder and how it led him to come up with his 'method', which is all about finding a way to channel your intellect: 'if you find a way of channelling your intellect away from chronic anxiety, it begins to disappear'.
Am I wrong in thinking that there are probably some sufferers of anxiety that are intelligent and have stimulating careers? One train of thought is that anxious people have creative minds and are, on average, more intelligent than the general population. Anxiety is all to do with being able to think too much, so forgive me if I don't agree that overcoming anxiety is as simple as channelling one's intellect.
Leith said the retreat made him feel uplifted. He said he had massages and therapy during his stay, but didn't really go into detail about what the course entailed. He referred to his anxiety as a 'bad habit'.
Anxiety, however, isn't like smoking. It isn't something that people indulge in despite knowing it's detrimental to their health. It's a medical condition. Would Leith also say that cancer is a bad habit?
He says anxiety is 'a childish way of not wanting to grow up. It's about not taking control.' If this wasn't bad enough, he then says: 'After a couple of days it seems clear that anxiety is not the answer... why not do something else instead?' Well, Leith, you may have the odd worry about the economy, but with articles like this, you may be right in worrying about your job security.
He ends the article with: 'I get in my taxi. I think: don't be eaten up with anxiety. Instead, do stuff!'. I'm relieved someone has managed to come up with an answer to such a crippling health problem.
Distraction is one way in which panic symptoms can be alleviated - but 'doing something' isn't a magic cure to ending such a 'bad habit'.
For the general public, worrying and stressing is a bad habit. But don't confuse this with such a serious disorder. Anyone reading this article suffering from an anxiety disorder will be patronised, offended and alienated - and I say that with conviction.