Los Angeles Times Obituary:
Harriet B. Braiker, 55; Author Was
An Expert on Stress Management
By Myrna Oliver
Times Staff Writer
January 13, 2004
Harriet B. Braiker, psychologist, expert on stress management and best-selling author of self-help books, including "The Type E Woman" and "The September 11 Syndrome," has died. She was 55.
Braiker died Saturday at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena of respiratory failure after suffering from pneumonia, said her husband, Steven Fink.
One of the first to recognize particular stressors affecting women, Braiker established her reputation in 1986 with her breakthrough book, "The Type E Woman: How to Overcome the Stress of Being Everything to Everybody."
Fink said his wife became intrigued in the early 1980s with emerging research on the Type A personality — hard-driving men who make themselves vulnerable to cardiovascular disease by their nonstop, workaholic behavior.
"But women suffer much more stress than men — a different stress," Fink said she told him. "Men can be successful on the job. But women need to be successful in a career, as a mother, cook, chauffeur, wife, volunteer in charities, hostess — so much more."
Fink said Braiker described her theory in a cover article for Working Woman magazine in 1984, "Why the Stress Experts Are Wrong About Women." He said the article generated such interest among women that Braiker turned it into the book "The Type E Woman."
"She will keep coping," Braiker wrote in the book, "by trying to rise to each and every occasion, pushing herself beyond safe or reasonable limits, without adequate regeneration and rejuvenation of her resources, until she is thoroughly depleted by her own good intentions. What is dazzling for a while will become debilitating over the longer term. And the quality of your life will be diminished in many ways by the chronic low boil of negative stress."
Braiker was soon well-known to readers of Working Woman and other magazines for her articles about how such issues as work, success, expectations, love and holidays can be stressful for women, and for her helpful advice on how to cope. She also became a popular speaker at conferences and on radio and television talk shows, including "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "The Today Show" and "Larry King Live."
Her book titles readily describe her down-to-earth subjects: "Getting Up When You're Feeling Down: A Woman's Guide to Overcoming and Preventing Depression," published in 1988; "Lethal Lovers and Poisonous People: How to Protect Your Health From Relationships That Make You Sick," in 1992; "The Disease to Please: Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome," in 2001, and last year's "Who's Pulling Your Strings? How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life."
After "The Disease to Please" was published in 2001, Braiker told The Times: "The issue is not to be so driven and compulsive about using every moment. You can't possibly keep up. People tell themselves, 'I'll relax after I've finished everything I have to do.'
"They tell themselves that downtime is a luxury after you finish. That's a wrongheaded way. Downtime is what's important to do."
After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Braiker wrote a book to help grieving Americans, titled "The September 11 Syndrome: Anxious Days and Sleepless Nights: Seven Steps to Getting a Grip in Uncertain Times."
Several reviewers, including those for Newsday and the Detroit Free Press, recommended the book as helpful in combating post-traumatic stress as the first anniversary of the attacks neared. Braiker donated a portion of her profits to charities benefiting families of Sept. 11 victims.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Braiker earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in both social and clinical psychology at UCLA. As a graduate student, she conducted research in alcoholism and crisis management on a National Science Foundation grant.
Working first as a social psychologist, Braiker spent seven years as an associate social scientist with the Rand Corp. There she analyzed policies on health issues, including alcoholism and substance abuse, for the Air Force and various federal government agencies. Turning next to clinical psychology, she opened her private practice in Beverly Hills and Pasadena in 1980 and focused on self-help writing and lecturing.
In addition to her husband, president of Lexicon Communications, Braiker is survived by their 13-year-old daughter, Amanda Fink; a brother, Dr. Barry Braiker; and a stepson, Stuart Fink.
The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to The Dr. Harriet Braiker Memorial Foundation.