Psychological Self-Help

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13 years later in the untreated groups are twice as high as in the
treated groups. If 6 to 30 hours spent learning psychotherapy or self-
help methods can reduce stress and increase the happiness and length
of life, then we had better develop world-wide training programs for
everyone soon. 
There is accumulating evidence that optimistic-pessimistic thinking
(attitude) is also related to health. Pessimists explain a bad event,
such as breast cancer, in different ways than optimists do, e.g.
pessimists say the cancer is "probably incurable," "a sign of terrible
future health, ruining all of my life," and "caused by my
genes...smoking habit...hopeless attitude...." Optimists would say, the
cancer "can be removed," "won't influence my future very much," and
is "caused by X-rays at work...air pollution...a virus...." The pessimist's
thinking is "the outcome will be bad," "everything else is going to hell
too," and "I am at fault." The optimist's thinking is the opposite: "I can
become healthy and strong" and "I can handle the pain." Positive
thinking, especially a belief in your ability to control an illness, is
associated with good health and good performance in school and at
work (Peterson, Seligman, & Vaillant, 1988; Seligman, 1991).
Pessimists can learn to change their thinking (McGinnis, 1990); some
will need professional help. 
For decades, the psychoanalysts have thought that complaining
and psychological sickness were due to an excessive need for love and
attention, stemming from feelings of neglect or criticism as a sensitive,
needy child. Most psychodynamic therapists would try to uncover
these old, still unsatisfied needs for love and bring them to the light of
day, then they will go away (or can be handled better rationally). 
Psychosomatic and physical disorders
It has been known for centuries that psychological/emotional
factors are related to many physical illnesses--some emotional
reactions cause problems and some psychological circumstances or
techniques help us feel better. Emotional trauma can cause physical
problems. A recent study reported that women who experience
trauma--domestic violence--have 50% to 70% more neurological,
gynecological and stress-based physical problems than women who
have never been abused (Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, 2002,
Archives of Internal Medicine). Of course, the reverse is true too:
having a physical problem may cause us distress and sadness while
good health contributes to happiness. Usually there is a two-way
relationship between the psychological and physical aspects. An entire
issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (July, 2002)
documents well the role of psychology in the management of many
specific physical problems and diseases. Negative emotions influence
our hormones and lower our immunity to several diseases. Depression,
anger, and social isolation contribute to heart disease; psychology can
and should be part of the treatment (see heart section below).
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