David D. Burns is the man who is responsible for making the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as popular as it is today! He is an adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. His book “Feeling good – The new Mood Therapy – The clinically proven drug-free Treatment for Depression” is well-known today.
He himself was skeptical when he first heard of this therapy form but tested it on his patients instead of simply dismissing it as utter nonsense. His patients gradually felt better after implementing the techniques he showed them (which he learned about every week right before or in the sessions). He was so stunned of the results CBT offered that he wrote this book which was a raving success.
Now I will give you a short summary of every “feeling good” chapter with excerpts. I recommend reading the whole book if you like the concept of CBT!
Many studies confirm that CBT works as well as anti-depressants for relaxation by changing the chemistry and architecture of the human brain. It’s great for a variety of disorders like eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders or phobias. Studies even claim that reading “feeling good” is worth a treatment with the best anti-depressive drugs or a full course of psychotherapy! After 4 weeks of “bibliotherapy” (reading therapy) 70 % of patients no longer met the criteria for a major-depressive disorder and this lasted 3 years after the study ended!
“You may be convinced that your own case is so bad, so overwhelming and hopeless…But sooner or later the clouds have a way of blowing away and the sky suddenly clears and the sun begins to shine again.”
This doesn’t sound too bad, does it? My depression doesn’t only come from negative thoughts (my energy lows can’t be treated by thinking more positive) but in my opinion everyone can gain something from a little thought reprogramming. I worked with a few programs before “feeling good” and each one helped me grow a bit more in a positive direction. I therefore highly recommend reading lots of books about self-growth and self-help! You live and learn 🙂
PART I – Theory and Research
Chapter 1: A Breakthrough in the Treatment of Mood Disorders
1. Rapid Symptomatic Improvement → often 12 weeks in mild depression!
2. Understanding → Learn why and when you get moody, what isn’t a normal mood and how to change it.
3. Self-control → Learn coping strategies to feel better when you are upset. After a while you can gain control of your moods!
4. Prevention and Personal Growth → Reassessment of your basic values and attitudes that trigger your depression for prevention of future mood swings!
CBT assumes that your mood is generated by your thoughts and that they are negatively affected when you’re depressed. These thoughts are twisted so much that they cause your suffering.
Chapter 2: How to diagnose your Moods: The first Step in the Cure
Here you can find a checklist called “Burns Depression Checklist”. This is the same outlined in the book. You should test yourself with this checklist weekly after starting the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to track any progress you’ll make.
Score 0-5: No depression
Score 6-10: Normal range but unhappy – could be improved with CBT
Score 11-25: Mild depression – not alarming but a little self-help efforts with CBT will help you (seek professional help when mood stays this way for a few weeks)
Score 26-50: Moderate depression – can indicate pretty intense suffering (seek professional help when mood stays this way for at least 2 weeks)
Score 51-75: Severe depression – can be almost unbearable (seek professional help)
Score 76-100: Extreme depression – can be almost unbearable with uncomfortable and possibly dangerous moods because of suicidal impulses triggered by despair and hopelessness (seek professional help)
Burns claims that “[…],sometimes the most severe depressions respond the most rapidly.”
High scores in the suicidal thought category (23-25)? Thoughts about people plotting to kill you or external forces want you to do something? Hallucinations? Mania? Seek professional help immediately!
I scored 82 in my worst state of mind and after implementing some rethinking techniques from other books and videos (I did nothing else than watching and listening to rethinking videos/audio for a month!) I’m now at a 40 which is a tremendous decrease!
The category where my score dropped the most is…tadaaaa: Thoughts and feelings!
The rethinking techniques helped me with accepting my low energy levels and that I’m not able to work as effective as other people right now. My feelings of guilt and shame decreased significantly. My worries aren’t gone but I’m working on them and question them whenever possible! I’m the best person I can be right now and that is all that matters! The past is the past! I’m never criticizing myself for anything or at least I will stop myself when attempting to! I try to be grateful and mindful every day!
Chapter 3: Understanding your Moods: You feel the Way you think
Burns describes 10 cognitive distortions that are present in almost all thinking patterns of depressed persons. He made up funny labels and stories for every distortion which I really enjoyed reading! These include the “All-or-nothing-Thinking”, the Disqualification of positive events, “Jumping to Conclusions”, labeling yourself or the prediction of events and thoughts of others.
To get to know these 10 distortions a little better there is a little quiz with 10 short stories and some suggested answers (multiple choice). You have to guess which distortions are responsible for the thoughts in these stories.
The quiz really helped me understand the impact of the 10 distortions in my own everyday life. Often there isn’t just one distortion at work – there are 3 or 5 that work together and get your thoughts really mixed up with negative emotions to come!
Click here for Part 2 of my book summary!