Do Self-Help Books Make You Helpless?

Pretty funny.  Did you know that reading self-help books can stress you out?

Really.  Turns out that consumers of self-help books are more sensitive to stress and show higher depressive symptomatology, according to a new study in Montreal.

I think I might know why.  Probably those of us who are drawn to these kinds of publications are already under stress and looking for solutions.  I know when I was an aficionado of these kinds of books, it was only because I was totally stuck in some situation that I couldn't figure how to get out of.

“Initially, we thought we had observed a difference in participants in terms of personality, sense of control, and self-esteem based on their self-help reading habits,” explains Catherine Raymond, first author of the study and a doctoral student at the CSHS of the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, at newswise.com. “In reality, there seems to be no difference between those who read and those who do not read these types of books. However, our results show that while consumers of certain types of self-help books secrete higher levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) when confronted with stressful situations, consumers of another type of self-help books show higher depressive symptoms compared to non-consumers,” said the student in neuroscience at the University of Montreal's Faculty of Medicine.

The group of self-help book consumers was itself divided into two types of readers: those who preferred problem-focused books (Why Is It Always About You? or How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To) and those who preferred growth-oriented books (You’re Stronger Than You Think or How to Stop Worrying and Start Living). The results showed that consumers of problem-focused self-help books presented greater depressive symptoms and that growth oriented self-help books consumers read increased stress reactivity compared to non-consumers.

 Researchers wondered the same thing I did.  The chicken or the egg?  Stay tuned.  That's another study.

“Nevertheless, it seems that these books do not produce the desired effects. When we observe that the best predictor of purchasing a self-help book is having bought one in the past year, it raises doubts about their effectiveness. Logically, if such books were truly effective, reading just one would be enough to solve our problems," researchers say. For this reason, they encourage people to rather consult books that report scientifically proven facts and are written by researchers or clinicians affiliated with recognized universities, health care facilities, or research centres. “Check your sources to avoid being disappointed. A good popular science book doesn’t replace a mental health professional but it can help readers better understand stress and anxiety and encourage them to seek help."






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