Self-Help Methods for Postpartum Depression: What to Watch Out For

Speaking of the alternative treatment methods for postpartum depression I wrote about yesterday, I forgot to mention the endless self-help gurus who sell you their wares as the key to getting a fulfilled life, happiness, the perfect weight, the perfect husband and a great car. I was reminded of these by a new story on CNN.com by Jason Hanna called “Good, Bad and Ugly Self-Help: How Can You Tell?”.

“Self-help is a multibillion-dollar-a-year unregulated industry in the United States, according to John C. Norcross, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton.

Norcross says hundreds of quality, research-supported self-help programs on career growth, health and self-esteem exist. But he and other critics say some gurus, promising secrets to greater happiness and wealth, offer advice that at best isn’t proven effective and at worst could send someone down a poorly suited or dangerous path.”

I was fooled into buying the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne afterit was on The Oprha Show a couple of years back. Don’t get me wrong — I definitely believe in the power of positive thinking and ridding oneself of hurtful thought processes. (In fact, here’s a story that just came out about the effectiveness of mindfulness on depression and anxiety, based on research.) But when I started seeing the parts of the book where they talk about envisioning thestuff you want and then getting it, when I started seeing how much of the book was about materialism, I got pretty pissed off and threw it out. Byrne had a kernel of a good idea, in my own little opinion, but then blew it with all the focus on getting things.

Plus, I worried about the people who have an illness, like, say, postpartum depression. What if someone believed that just by thinking it away they could get rid of postpartum depression and thus refused any other type of treatment? Not that the book says to doprecisely that, but you could see how people might fall into that line of thinking. They might blame themselves if they don’t get better and fall into an even worse depression.

As Tim Watkin wrote in the Washington Post:

“Still worse is the insidious flip side of Byrne’s philosophy: If bad things happen to you, it’s all your fault. As surely as your thoughts bring health, wealth and love, they are also responsible for any illness, poverty or misery that comes your way.

That isn’t just implied, it’s spelled out: ‘The only reason why people do not have what they want is because they are thinking more about what they don’t want than what they do want.’ By this logic, Holocaust victims brought it on themselves, as did those who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina. Come on, New Orleans, get over it! Think positive!

‘Imperfect thoughts are the cause of humanity’s ills,’ Byrne asserts, in a stunning sentence that had me pondering how to perfect my thoughts, pronto.

Poverty? ‘The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts.’

Illness? ‘You cannot ‘catch’ anything unless you think you can. . . . You are also inviting illness if you are listening to people talking about their illness.’ So . . . got any sick friends who need a shoulder to cry on? Tell ’em to bug off!”

I just can’t go there. I don’t think I attracted my postpartum OCD, or asked for it, or that it was my fault that it took a while to get over it. And thank God my friends didn’t avoid me in order not to be contaminated with my mental-illness-germ-filled words.

How we think is crucial to our recovery from mental illness. Having a positive attitude and believing that we WILL get betteris key. We have to eliminate our unhelpful thought processes. Getting help from professionals is important, but so is taking responsibility for ourselves, and this is where self-care can contribute mightily to getting better. But it’s also important to be aware of those who are more concerned about lining their own pockets than about you as an individual and how best to help you heal.

Self-help is not wrong or bad. It’s good and can help with recovery from postpartum depression. You just need to be wary of the people out there who are selling you a bunch of hooey. Unfortunately, they’re mixed in with the good guys. The CNN.com article suggests 5 things you should watch out for when considering different self-help therapies. Check them out.

About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

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  1. Great articles you've written these last couple of days. I couldn't agree more!