Anxiety has ruled Tim Clare’s life for too long now and so, after a chance encounter with some guinea pigs at a petting zoo, and for the sake of his daughter, he has decided to become a human guinea pig and test out many of the theories and treatments that claim to ease or cure anxiety in the hope of finding something that works.  

Clare documents his journey in Coward: Why We Get Anxious & What We Can Do About It, although is careful to point out that he does not consider this a self-help book:  

“I’m barely qualified to dress myself, let alone coach someone I’ve never met through overcoming the most widespread mental illness in the world. It’d be like asking a goat to operate a lathe.” 

This self-deprecating humour and realist approach to the anxiety epidemic is a refreshing approach on such a serious subject and is one he deploys successfully throughout his ‘experiments’. 

He starts simply: diet and exercise, before moving onto the pros and cons of medication, cold-water therapy, hypnosis and meditation among others. There are highs and lows. Throughout his experiments what Clare ultimately comes to realise is that everyone is different, everyone’s experience of anxiety is different and that everyone’s reaction to the various proposed treatments is different.  

He is at his best when philosophising on his personal experiences, telling stories the reader can relate to, using analogies we can all understand. At times though the book slips too far into science which may appeal to some readers but sits at odds with the sections on his real, lived experience.  

It is a book that can be dipped into rather than one that would be read cover to cover on a wet weekend day and although the claim early in the book was that this was not a self-help book there may be suggestions in here which anxiety sufferers can really get on board with and which may give them exactly what they need in order to step into a world free from the crippling state of panic many live with on a daily basis.