This Book is Making me Nervous – Novels that Feature Characters with Anxiety Disorder

Mental illness on screen is really difficult for me to see especially anxiety attacks and the like.:

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I think that we, as a society, have come a long away in beginning to lose the stigma associated with mental illness, but we obviously still have a ways to go. It is hard for people who don’t deal with it on a daily basis to understand, so I thought I’d share some books that I thought realistically portrayed what it’s like to live with an anxiety disorder. These are characters that made me feel understood and could maybe help others understand what it’s like.

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Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Sam suffers from not just anxiety, but Purely-Obsessional OCD. I can not even begin to tell you how much of myself I saw in her (to the point where I think maybe I have some form of undiagnosed OCD). This book is raw and real and was so identifiable to me that I often had to put the book down because it was making me so emotional.

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The Real Thing by Cassie Mae

Because this book is NA, I obviously had some issues with it, but I really loved pretty much everything that had to do with Eric. He’s insecure about his weight, has anxiety attacks, and doesn’t like to be touched (FYI – I identify with each thing in that list). I thought Mae did a great job of realistically portraying what it’s like to live with anxiety. I also think she handled the treatment of it much better than most books that have anxiety prone characters. Eric has coping techniques, family support, therapy, and medication.

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Crash into You by Katie McGarry

I’m not a huge fan of Katie McGarry books, but this one is one of my favorites of hers – primarily because the main character, Rachel, deals with anxiety. I don’t really remember enough about the story to say much about it, but I thought it was a pretty realistic portrayal.

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I have read a few reviews about how people don’t like Cath because they were frustrated with her behavior. However, I loved Cath, because I understood her behavior. I have so many highlighted passages of things that Cath says that are just so relatable to someone who lives with anxiety. While I will always recommend Rainbow Rowell’s work to everyone for every reason, this is definitely one to read to help broaden your mental health awareness horizons.

What are some books you’ve enjoyed that include characters with anxiety or other mental health issues?

I'm diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder with Associated Agoraphobia. It's real, and it sucks, but medication has given me back my life. You are not alone. Get psychiatric help... it's worth it. I promise.:

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Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

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I don’t think there’s ever been a book that I’ve felt like when I was reading it, I was reading about myself, more than this one. Which surprised (and concerned) me, as I’ve never been diagnosed with any type of OCD (purely obsessional or otherwise), but, man… The thought-spirals, the need to research or just know, 3’s – in addition to the anxiety attacks…so much of this book was me. Some of it to a much smaller extent than Sam and some of it not at all, but for the most part I really identified with Sam when she was dealing with her disorder. Almost to the point where I don’t feel I can properly review the rest of the book because it made such an emotional impact on me.

I really liked the relationships in this book. Sometimes you are friends with someone your whole life, but more often than not, there comes a time when you grow in different directions and I liked that authenticity in Sam’s relationship with her initial clique, The Eight. The one thing I didn’t like about their friendship was that it was not developed enough to give me a reason why I should care if they stay friends or not. Basically all we know about them is that they’re the Mean Girl clique and they’ve been friends since kindergarten.  I did really liked watching her friendships develop with those in the Poet’s Corner, though, especially Caroline and AJ.

I thought that AJ was very good for Sam and I really liked watching them journey from Not-Friends to Friends to More. While I thought that once they became “more” things escalated a little too quickly, I was overall a fan of the romance.

There were two things that didn’t exactly work for me in the book, though. While I appreciate the role poetry plays in this story (it’s a big one!), I didn’t really appreciate the poetry itself. I’ve never really understood poetry – especially when poems don’t rhyme. Then there’s a big plot twist that I didn’t see coming until right before it was revealed and it really did shock me. However, while it worked, the aftermath of it I thought could have been executed a little better. There was a big shift in Sam’s mental health that I think really needed addressed and I thought her therapist was a little too “no big deal” about it.

Overall, I really, really liked Every Last Word. I really identified with Sam and enjoyed watching how she made positive changes in her life throughout the book. I liked the relationships and the cute romance and I’m really glad that I gave this one a chance. I definitely recommend it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars