Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

When Self-Help Isn’t Helpful

I was relieved to know Jane Chin, Ph.D., of agrees with my doctor that persons who are severely depressed should stay away from self-help books.
On the message board on my post “What the Secret Can and Can’t Do For Depression,” (where I compare the philosophies of positive psychology and The Secret-esque law of attraction), Dr. Chin writes this:

Interesting that your doc suggested that you stay away from all that positive stuff until you’re in the “mild to moderate” zone. I agree completely (and used to have a shelf full of positive thinking stuff).
In the moderate severe to severe depressive state, something in the other “extreme” along the spectrum can have the opposite effect, even reinforcing the belief that “this is hopeless, I’ll never get there, I don’t relate remotely to what those people are writing about!”


In the past I’ve noted a couple of instances where self-help books in depression therapy were in the news:
Self-Help Books Not As Helpful?” and “Read This Book and Call Me in a Week
(note the English docs were specific about patients being mild to moderately depressed as the target patient population)

Other readers felt that way too. Reader Nancy Orbe wrote this (on the same message board):

I was so relieved to find this site. I’ve tried to explain to people for years that neither my Master’s Degree in Psychology nor all the self-help/spiritual books I’ve devoured have done anyting for me. In fact, I read in a soul-oriented book last year that it is often best to stop reading altogether to see what the soul brings forth. I have been doing this since the new year. Believe it or not I found the fix-it mentality was constantly pressuring me to be someone different, i.e. better than I am. Not listening to my moods, inner voice, etc. put me in a constant state of disconnect which was even more desperate feeling. These days, I try to tell the truth to the right people, and accept myself huge flaws and all. I try to be grateful for what I can do, even if others think I should do more. I am happy that I am deep, soulful, Passionate, creative and a hard worker.

  • Larry Parker

    Belated kudos to Dr. Chin and Ms. Orbe!

  • Jennifer

    Several months ago I thought about unsubscribing from The Happiness Project blog because I felt lame for not being able to practice all of her suggestions, for not being able to be happy. I’m still subscribed, but I don’t judge myself against her anymore.

  • Jane Chin

    Thanks for including my opinion, Therese!
    Thanks Larry for the kudos.
    By the way, I had a lot of fun selling off many of some of those “super duper” positive thinking books off Amazon :-)

  • Irene

    I am so grateful I read your comments about slef help books.They are all bandades they cannot fix what is broken inside.
    I lost my son October 2005 and fell into the deep dark hole of depression. My brother who loves me and means well kept sending me escerpts from all the self help books he could find everyday. It got to the point where I couldn’t open his emails anymore, I would become so anxious after reading them.
    I agree that the best thing to do is stop reading them and get in touch with the spirit inside you. Nurture your soul and love who you are. Thank You for Sharing your story with me.

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