Ep. 21: Dr. Joel Minden — How to Stop Anxiety from Controlling Your Life

Everyone experiences anxiety at times, and it can actually be quite useful. But when it dominates a person’s life, anxiety can be debilitating. My guest this week is Dr. Joel Minden, who specializes in the treatment of anxiety, including panic, generalized anxiety, and social phobia, as well as the related conditions of posttraumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Joel’s primary approach is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and he also draws on elements of mindful acceptance. I enjoyed exploring the treatment of anxiety with someone whose approach has a lot of overlap with mine. We talked about many topics related to anxiety, including:

  • the difference between helpful and unhelpful anxiety
  • how anxiety and fear are related
  • the problem of avoidance
  • depression as a result of anxiety and avoidance
  • a transdiagnostic approach to treating all types of anxiety, and other conditions like depression
  • the difference between stress and anxiety
  • common treatment elements across anxiety conditions
  • “anxious fictions,” which are highly negative predictions about how things will turn out
  • the limitations of positive thinking, vs. realistic thinking
  • how to work through anxiety and avoidance
  • the pros and cons of using marijuana to manage anxiety
  • potential advantages of focusing on behavior in CBT
  • dealing with disturbing thoughts, aka “oddities of the mind”
  • how intrusive thoughts are like cats
  • skills for dealing with social anxiety
  • the challenge of uncertainty
  • behavioral techniques for dealing with panic
  • the challenge and importance of facing our fears in exposure therapy
  • exercise for anxiety and stress management, including for those with an anxious personality
  • what “acceptance” means in the context of anxiety treatment (vs. hopelessness)
  • the value in creating more space from which to choose how we react to overwhelming emotions

Whew! We covered a lot, but our time went by quickly. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Here’s a link to the book Joel mentioned: Emotion Efficacy Therapy. (Please note this is an affiliate link, so a percentage of sales through it is used to support the podcast, at no additional charge to you.)

If you’d like to connect with Joel, you can find him on Twitter, on his CBT Chico website, and on his Psychology Today blog, CBT and Me. His book Show Your Anxiety Who’s Boss will be available in summer 2019. It provides practical, flexible, and evidence-based anxiety management strategies to help you prepare for upcoming challenges, prioritize valued behavior over immediate anxiety reduction, and respond with acceptance and self-compassion when anxious thoughts and feelings create a distraction. You’ll notice that the title of his book has changed since the time of our conversation; at that time it was going to be called Show Your Mind Who’s Boss.

Joel is a licensed psychologist in California and director of the Chico Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He’s a Diplomate of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, and is a lecturer in the Psychology Department at California State University, Chico. Joel also has a background in sport psychology and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist.

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