I picked up this book years ago (before getting therapy for my own anxiety disorder) and quickly gained much insight into the many variants of phobia and anxiety disorders. The explanations are clear, allowing laypersons as well as experts a good level of understanding.
While the book is definitely geared toward therapists interested in learning Beck's cognitive therapy approach, it is certainly useful to any patient or relative who is confronted with such problems -- above all the first half of the book! I really appreciated not being talked down to as in so many patient-oriented books.
Beck opens with an overview of everyday experience of fear and anxiety. Next, he describes the adaptive purpose of anxiety responses ("fight or flight") putting anxiety disorders on a dimension with normal behavior. He continues on to discuss the difference between "normal" and "pathological" forms of anxiety, addressing the major symptoms and thought patterns associated with clinical forms. He then gives an overview of clinical anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, atypical anxiety disorder, phobic disorders (of which there are many kinds), agoraphobia, social phobia and simple phobias.
He then presents his cognitive model of threat reactions and in-depth chapters focussing on anxiety disorder clusters ("Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder", "Simple Phobias", "The Agoraphobic Syndrome", and "The Evaluation Anxieties" social phobia and social anxiety). The second part of the book is devoted to his principles and strategies/techniques of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
The fact that new editions of this book have been published every few years over the past 2 decades is a tribute to its usefulness.