Andrea Petersen - "On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety" - Katie Thomas

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Andrea Petersen & Katie Thomas


“Deft and affecting, heart-breaking and fascinating, On Edge completely captures what it feels like to live with anxiety.” - 

Andrea Petersen discusses ON EDGE: A Journey Through Anxiety. She will be joined in conversation by Katie Thomas.

At 57th Street Books

RSVP HERE (Please note that your RSVP is requested, not required)

About the book: An estimated 40 million American adults suffer from some type of anxiety disorder in any given year. Women are especially vulnerable; about 40 percent of them will have an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. And rates are increasing for young people—17 percent of college students were diagnosed with or treated for anxiety during the past year, up from 10 percent in 2008. Among those whose lives have been turned upside down by anxiety is Andrea Petersen, a highly regarded writer for the Wall Street Journal. In ON EDGE: A Journey Through Anxiety (Crown), Petersen harnesses her personal experience and expertise as a health reporter to explore the biological mechanisms of anxiety and the groundbreaking research that might point the way to new treatments.

During her sophomore year of college, Petersen experienced her first panic attack. After that, nothing was the same. She had spells of breathlessness, a racing heart, and uncontrollable fear that seemingly came out of nowhere. She worried that any twinge of pain was a sign that she was seriously ill or had an undiagnosed disease. She was afraid of driving on highways, touching dirt, using a new tube of toothpaste, and even licking envelopes. Fear, she said, ambushed her. Forced to withdraw from school, she spent half her time on the sofa, the other half getting EKGs, blood tests, CAT scans, MRIs, EEGs, and a variety of other tests. Doctors suspected MS, a brain tumor, Epstein-Barr virus, even chronic fatigue syndrome. It took over a dozen doctors and almost a year before she was finally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and treated. Although having a name for her symptoms and fears was an enormous relief, identifying the problem was only the beginning of Petersen’s journey toward understanding it.

In ON EDGE, Petersen offers readers a crash course in what happens in the brain of someone with anxiety. She excavates the role of genetics and the environment in mental illness by visiting with top neuroscientists and by tracing her family history—from her grandmother, who plagued by paranoia once tried to burn down her own house, to her young daughter, who Petersen worries might have inherited a genetic propensity toward anxiety. She candidly writes about how anxiety has colored her relationships—with her family, friends, coworkers, and boyfriends—from the ones who were supportive to the ones who were overwhelmed and made a beeline for the exit. She writes about the history of how anxiety has been treated, and how anxiety has both bolstered and limited her own career. Along the way, she illuminates the differences between anxiety in men and women; looks at promising new research and treatments, many of which she’s tried herself; and introduces us to the people whose support has allowed her to make her life her own.

ON EDGE is an important and timely book that shines a light on a condition that is too often invisible, or stigmatized. Brave and empowering, this is essential reading for anyone who knows what it means to live on edge. 

About the author: Andrea Petersen is a contributing writer at the Wall Street Journal, where she reports on psychology, health, and neuroscience. She is the recipient of a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.

About the interlocutor: Katie Thomas is a Chicago-based reporter for the New York Times, covering health care with a focus on the pharmaceutical industry. She started at the New York Times in 2008 as a sports reporter, where she covered two Olympics and wrote about everything from gender equity in college sports to a feature about donkey basketball. Before that, she was a reporter for nine years with Newsday. Ms. Thomas is a graduate of New York University and grew up in upstate New York. 

Event Location: 
57th Street Books
1301 E 57th St.
Chicago, IL 60637