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Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy

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The good news is that anxiety, guilt, pessimism, procrastination, low self-esteem, and other "black holes" of depression can be cured without drugs. In Feeling Good, eminent psychiatrist, David D. Burns, M.D., outlines the remarkable, scientifically proven techniques that will immediately lift your spirits and help you develop a positive outlook on life. Now, in this updated edition, Dr. Burns adds an All-New Consumer′s Guide To Anti-depressant Drugs as well as a new introduction to help answer your questions about the many options available for treating depression.

- Recognise what causes your mood swings
- Nip negative feelings in the bud
- Deal with guilt
- Handle hostility and criticism
- Overcome addiction to love and approval
- Build self-esteem
- Feel good everyday

736 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1980

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About the author

David D. Burns

35 books512 followers
David D. Burns is an adjunct professor emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the author of the best-selling book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Burns popularized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) when his book became a best seller during the 1980s.

Burns received his B.A. from Amherst College in 1964 and his M.D. from the Stanford University School of Medicine in 1970. He completed his residency training in psychiatry in 1974 at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and was certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in 1976. Burns is the author of numerous research studies, book chapters and books. He also gives lectures and conducts many psychotherapy training workshops for mental health professionals throughout the United States and Canada each year. He has won many awards for his research and teaching, and has been named "Teacher of the Year" three times by the graduating class of psychiatric residents at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Burns was an early student of Aaron T. Beck who developed cognitive therapy from 1950s work by Albert Ellis (whose work was based on that of Alfred Adler).

Burns is on the voluntary faculty of the Stanford University School of Medicine, where he is actively involved in research and training. He also serves as a statistical consultant for Stanford's new Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research. He has also served as Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Medical School and Acting Chief of Psychiatry at the Presbyterian / University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,194 reviews
Profile Image for Steve.
91 reviews1 follower
May 2, 2011
Many years ago I had a confluence of tragic events in my life and I decided to see a psychologist for a while. One day the psychologist told me that I needed to "deal with my feelings". I told him in frustration that I heard that many times before, but that I did not understand what that meant. I asked him what exactly do people do when they "deal with their feelings". He was silent for a few moments and then he wrote the name of this book down on a slip of paper. This book will tell you how to "deal with your feelings".

You may get an instant change in your feelings on some small issues, but for the most part cognitive therapy is like jogging to lose weight. You have to do it consistently and for a while to get significant results. No magic, you have to work, but you will get good results.

One of the symptoms of depression is not seeing things as they are. Since cognitive therapy works on learning to see things as how they are a person with severe depression might benefit from seeing a psychologist who specializes in cognitive therapy. Such a therapist can help a person see around their blind spots whereas a book can not.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,178 followers
September 3, 2016
If you can love and respect yourself in failure, worlds of adventure and new experiences will open up before you, and your fears will vanish.

It is an interesting statement on contemporary culture that practical, self-help books are often looked down on as lowbrow, unsophisticated, and unworthy of serious consideration. Just note how often in reviews of self-help books you come across the phrase, “I don’t normally read books like this,” or the like. Of course, skepticism regarding books of this kind is merited, especially when you take into account the amount of quackery, chicanery, demagoguery, and baloney in print. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say we have a veritable advice industry in our culture today, with a great deal of money to be made and thus lots of enterprising, unscrupulous people peddling various forms of nonsense, hoping to get rich. Self-help books now sell so well that they have to be excluded from non-fiction sales rankings, because if they weren’t the top 10 best sellers would be an endless parade of one self-help book after another.

But why are so many people willing to pay for and devour book after book, getting swept about by the ceaseless winds of doctrine, navigating their lives through fad after fad? Fashionable ways of running and ruining your life have always been with us; yet I think there is another aggravating factor at work in the present day.

Recently I read two history books, one about Ancient Greece and the other about Rome. As I learned about the philosophies of education in those societies, I noticed how central were the ideas of ethical and moral teaching. I don’t mean ethical in the narrow sense of right and wrong, but in the wider Greek sense, used by Aristotle, the Stoics, and the Epicureans—how to cultivate wisdom, how to live a well-regulated life, how to deal with the hardships and misfortunes that are so often thrown our way. These were primary concerns of pedagogy. By contrast, our current education system, as least here in the States, has deemphasized ethical teaching almost completely.

There are, of course, many reasons for this, and many of them are good ones; but I do think it leaves a certain gap in our culture that self-help books partially fill. Unfortunately, from what I can tell, many of these seem rather mediocre—or worse. But this book, by David D. Burns, is for me one of the exceptions. It is an interesting and, for me, an extremely useful book, based on a well-studied and much-tested therapeutic technique.

Burns’s aim in writing this book was to popularize the methods of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a therapeutic technique developed by the psychologist Aaron T. Beck, among others. The premise of CBT is very simple: your moods are caused by your thoughts, so by controlling your thoughts you can control your moods. At first sight, this may seem like complete nonsense; our moods come and go, and our thoughts simply take on the timbre of whatever mood we happened to be in, right? This seems to be what most people assume; certainly I did. Yet consider this scenario, which actually happened to me:
My boss scheduled a meeting with me out of the blue. I immediately started thinking that I hadn’t been doing a good job recently, so I began to panic, sure I was about to get fired. Eventually, this panic turned to indignation, as I convinced myself of the injustice of the situation, since I worked hard and tried my best. So, literally trembling with anxiety and outrage, I went to the meeting and sat down; and my boss said: “We’re giving you a bonus, because you’ve been doing so well. Congratulations!” Suddenly, all my negative feelings turned into joy.

This I think well illustrates the central idea behind CPT. All of my negative and positive emotions in this scenario were due to my interpretation of the event, not the event itself. I made the false assumption, based on no evidence, that I was going to be fired. I thought of every mistake and imperfection in my work over the last month or so, and convinced myself that I was doing poorly and that termination was imminent. Then, I persuaded myself that I wasn’t given adequate resources or support, and that the situation was unjust. And when I was finally given the bonus, I interpreted that to mean I was doing a good job and that I was getting all the support I needed—which were equally tenuous interpretations. Thus you can see how my mood was a direct product of my thoughts.

All of my negative assumption in the above paragraph contain what Burns calls “warped thoughts,” or cognitive distortions. These are irrational patterns of thinking which have been found to be common in depressed and overly anxious patients. The CBT interpretation of depression is that these thinking patterns are not caused by depression, but actually cause depression. In other words, depression results from persistent, unrealistic negative interpretations of one’s life and experience, leading one to focus solely on the bad and to feel hopeless about the future.

Burns gives a list of 10 types of warped thoughts, but in my opinion there is quite a bit of overlap in the categories. The distortions more or less boil down to the following:

—Making negative assumptions, whether about the future or about what someone else is thinking;
—Assuming that one’s emotions accurately reflect reality;
—Over-generalizing a small number of negative occurrences into an inevitable trend;
—Willfully ignoring all of the positives to focus solely on the negative;
—Thinking in black and white categories;
—Making unjustified “should” or “ought” statements about the world without considering other people's perspectives;
—Feeling that you are responsible for things over which you have no control;
—Labeling oneself and others with vague pejoratives.

The first part of this book is dedicated to allowing the reader to recognize these types of thoughts and to combat them. This most often is just a matter of writing these thoughts down and exposing the distortions that lay beneath. Simple as this sounds, I’ve found this to be remarkably effective. As you might have guessed from the above example, I am rather prone to anxiety; and during this summer, my anxiety was getting to the point that I felt incapacitated. I was driving my friends and family nuts with my constant worrying; and nobody, including myself, knew how to deal with me.

Luckily, I heard about a site called MoodGYM, which is a website developed by the Australian National University for people dealing with anxiety and depression, using the techniques of CBT. Desperate for some relief, I completed the reading and activities on the website, and found that I felt much, much better. Impressed, I looked for books on CBT techniques, and of course came across this one.

What most intrigued me about CBT was the emphasis on accuracy. The techniques weren’t based on the premise that I was somehow damaged or filled with strange desires, nor did they include any amount of self-delusion or wishful thinking. Quite the reverse: the whole emphasis was on thinking clearly, basing beliefs on evidence, avoiding unreasonable assumptions, and seeing things from multiple points of view.

Take anger. Very often (though not always), our feelings of indignation simply result from seeing an event through a narrowly selfish lens. We don’t get the job we interviewed for, and we feel cheated; someone beat us to that parking spot, and we feel outraged. But when we consider these scenarios from the perspective of the boss or the other driver, the situation suddenly seems much more just and fair; they are pursuing their own interests, just like we are. So simply by looking at the situation from multiple points of view, and thus understanding it more fully, our feelings of anger are cooled.

When I began working through the techniques in the book, I was astounded by how often these types of distortions plagued my thinking. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so unpleasant: I could twist any situation or piece of information into somehow reflecting negatively on my character. Everything bad in the world confirmed my negativity, and everything good only served to reproach me and to make me envious and resentful. The good news was that, when I began to recognize these illogical patterns of thought, it was extremely easy for me to correct them; and for the past month or so I’ve been feeling a great deal happier and calmer.

After teaching the reader several personal and interpersonal techniques—strategies for dealing with oneself and others more effectively—Burns moves on to examining some of the underlying assumptions that give rise to warped thinking. It turns out that these all involve equating one’s “value” or “worth” with some extrinsic good, whether it be approval, love, success, fame, or even skill. There is, of course, nothing wrong with enjoying the approval of others, the thrill of love, the sense of accomplishment, or the satisfaction of a job well done. The problem arises when, instead of enjoying something, we use it to measure ourselves.

To use a somewhat silly but germane example, how many people believe that those who read more books, bigger books, harder books, are somehow “superior” to people who don’t? I’ve certainly been guilty of this; but it is pretty clearly an absurd position when I think about it, and one that I couldn’t possibly defend on any valid moral or intellectual grounds. What on earth does it even mean to be a “superior” person?

Superiority only makes sense when we have some quality we can measure, such as wealth or strength; but when we say “superior” by itself, what quality do we mean? “Worth”? How do you measure that? You can try being clever and say “By the number of books you read” or something, but that’s clearly circular reasoning. If you are a humanist or religious, you might say that you have worth just from the fact of being alive; but then of course everyone is equally worthy and there’s no sense in feeling worthless.

In the non-Goodreads population, I suspect book addiction isn’t a big problem; more often, people feel down because they imagine that approval, love, money, or expertise is necessary to be a worthwhile and happy person. But the absurdity of this kind of thinking is revealed when you consider how many famous, beloved, rich, virtuosic, brilliant, successful people there have been, and still are, who are deeply depressed and feel worthless and hopeless. Short of torture, there are no circumstances in life that guarantee unhappiness; and the same goes for happiness. This is not to say that you shouldn’t try to change or improve your situation, only a reminder you that the way you interpret a situation is often as important as the situation itself, if not more so.

I cannot hope to sum up the entire book in the space of this review; but I hope what I have included has convinced you that it’s at least worth looking into. After all, by definition, nothing feels better than happiness.

Of course, the book isn’t perfect. Burns’s writing style is nothing remarkable, and it is occasionally tacky; but I think that it’s excusable considering that he’s a therapist, not a writer, and that he’s trying to reach a popular audience. One flaw that I thought was less easy to excuse was Burns's exclusive focus on straight couples in his sections on love and relationships. Burns writes in a purely heteronormative vein, not even acknowledging same-sex couples, which is difficult to justify, considering the higher rates of depression and anxiety among gays and lesbians—not to mention others in the LGBTQ community. I hope this is changed in future additions.

A criticism I am tempted to make, but which I actually think is unfair, is that CBT makes people passive, accepting, and more content with the status quo. It sometimes seems as if Burns is telling people not to try to change their circumstances, but rather to accommodate themselves to them. I think this is unfair for a few reasons. No matter how powerful we may be, there will always be things in life which we cannot change and which we simply have to accept; so developing the tools to do so without frustration or anger is useful for everyone. What’s more, real depression and anxiety are not conducive to effective action. Quite the opposite: depression often makes people apathetic and anxiety makes people feel too overwhelmed to do anything. Besides, you can’t solve a problem unless you can see it clearly, and the thinking patterns associated with depression and anxiety lead to a total inability to see problems clearly and to deal with them rationally. So I think accusations that this book is somehow reactionary or that it leads to passivity are unfair.

To sum up this already overlong review, I just hope I’ve convinced you that this book might be extremely valuable to you or to someone you know. It certainly has been for me. Now I no longer feel that I am at the mercy of my moods or emotions, or that my sense of self-worth or confidence is dependent on my circumstances. And I’d say these benefits definitely outweigh the tacky cover and the corny title, don’t you?

(Oh, and if the book seems like too big a commitment, MoodGYM is pretty swell too, despite additional corniness of course.)
Profile Image for Mike.
508 reviews107 followers
November 17, 2014
Yeah, I'm reading self-help books now. Surprised?

There are a lot of components to Feeling Good that still grated on the self-help misanthrope-hopeless-fuckface-jaded-dickhead that I usually am, and it's mostly in David Burns's overtly assertive and "it's-so-simple" prose styling. Sometimes it's great because he's gifted at taking highly nuanced and sophisticated concepts about cognition and psychiatry and making them digestible and applicable; other times the tone sort of crosses into the sort of infomercial, self-help prose that has become such a subject of ridicule and cliche among the jaded like myself. This is less common that I'm leading on. The content is absolutely, definitely, hands-down worth pushing through even if the title, the way that it is branded, the cover, and the prose is a little off-putting. Part of that is because of the ways in which Burns thought he needed to reach as many people as possible with his research, but, hey, he succeeded: as of 1990 I think 3 million people used Feeling Good to their advantage, and I understand why. Even if the self-help culture rubs you the wrong way, there are too many valuable lessons here that are by no means soft or even necessarily "feel-good." They're good, responsible tools just behavior-wise and could be an interesting read for anybody.

The first is this: your cognitions precede your emotions, and your cognitions will be - and are more often than not - distorted. Behind every sort of anxious blur or depressed haze or crushing weight, there really is a level to transcend there, and it's about putting your own thoughts under methodical, scientific inquiry. It's as simple and as difficult as that. It takes an element of bravery, a lot of motivation, and the writing and exercises it requires are - believe me - a lot of work. But part of Feeling Good, it turns out, isn't in bowing down to God or putting any concepts on a pedestal here. It's a toolbox that combines logical analysis of one's own cognitions, how they are distorted, and rebutting that rationally. There's something empowering about having the choice and power to rewire one's thoughts in this way, and it never feels like a delusion or even any sort of dishonesty. It's usually a goodness that comes via hard-earned evaluation and realization. They are the same principles of scrutiny and logical adherence I had - and have- as a depressed person, only I can escalate that mode of evaluation to my own thoughts in new and useful ways. It's as simple as realizing that "choice" transcends all the clusters of thoughts and feelings that can be incredibly crippling.

To be honest, I'm not familiar so much with the self-help movement as I am with the stigma and denigrating naysayer hullabaloo around it. I'm sure a lot of it, whether religion-based or delusion-based or Dr.-Phil-counseling balderdash, is just ridiculous and irresponsible. Feeling Good takes pains to provide examples of where psychiatrists, psychotherapists, physicians, and everyone in between gets it wrong, and it's usually by enforcing silly methods like "keep telling yourself this" or it's a "chemical imbalance."

In my depressions I felt a sort of comforting smugness to the confidence I had in my thoughts and feelings, the absolute certainty with which I could assert such and such was bad or such and such thing would not work out, and then very methodically explain why. That confidence in rational explanation was pointed outward, and was more assured than I would like to admit. All the criticism and rigor and weighty analysis of the external and its impact on me was preventing me from putting that skill to something that's a little more in my control than the outside world. Like, for example, how I think. This resolution is simple, brilliant, and 'meta' in the best way. Very recently it seems behavioral therapy is demonstrating the potential to re-wire the brain - hopefully I'm not criminally paraphrasing some neuro-scientific research - and that lends this the much-needed credibility a lot of the Deepak Chopra self-help movement desperately needs, and will never get.

So, Feeling Good has a tremendously important message and I hope it sticks, because so far it's working mighty well. I can't describe how "shit, that's so simple and brilliant...I wish I'd thought of that" his methodology is. It turns out the fact that you can't necessarily trust your mind can be spun into something empowering and liberating. It also turns out that rigorous scientific thinking or introspective, critical analysis does not bear the mark, necessarily, of misery or sadness. The only thing that's stopping me from saying Feeling Good is out-and-out amazing personally - which, its ideas certainly are - are just the artificial testimonials and awkwardly unrealistic "role-play" scenarios between Dr. Burns and his client. Even if they are word-for-word, they don't come off convincingly at all. I understand the need for examples but they don't quite pack as much of a punch when they come off as scripted or suspect. Some are more groan-inducing in execution than probably intended, and sometimes it beats a dead horse. The repetition helps it stick, though, and if anything ought to stick, it's how to help yourself out of self-destruction.

So I get they are a necessary way for him to get this out there and help as many people as he can. It's a quibble from someone who appreciates that its broad appeal is how I got to stumbling across it in the first place, and for that I am grateful. While parts of it weren't "amazing" to me personally, I'm more-so amazed at how pitch-perfect it is written to grasp such a wide and diverse audience (of depressed and/or hyper-critical people also), help millions, and transcend the oft-critiqued 'self-help' culture. The feat and the ideas are amazing even if at times the read doesn't sit well with me personally. In fact, I picked up The Feeling Good Handbook yesterday.

Part of me does think I'll get judged for this sort of reading, and there are imaginary people out there who will think poorly of this form of writing, blah blah blah. I can tell you right now that, though that voice is in there, I know precisely why it's there, that it's full of shit, and fuck off and go read this for your own sake. The way it differentiates between sadness and depression is poetic in a way I've never even seen in fiction.
Profile Image for Jamie.
113 reviews15 followers
December 31, 2011
A therapist recommended this book to me. It is basically about how you choose your moods based on how you choose to respond to different situations and events. It really helped me to be in a better mood more often and be more positive about things. You must read this book with an open mind; there is no point if you are skeptical from the start. But it can definitely help you become a happier person.
Profile Image for Eric.
46 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2009
Here's the book in a nutshell: How you feel is entirely determined by your mental interpretation of things that happen to you. Nobody "makes" you unhappy, you decide that on your own. Most of the time, the information you use when deciding to feel depressed is based on false reasoning. Therefore, a great deal of depression can be treated by thinking through your reasoning, identifying distortions, and correcting the misconception.

The exercize that the authors give again and again is to: 1) Write down what you are thinking. 2) record how you feel. 3) Write down the distortion that is making you feel bad. 4) write down a corrected version. 5) Track how this makes you feel better.

Overall, I found this information useful and applicable in my own life and in the interactions I have with others. While this information was great, I found the book to be a little tedious. I think they could have gotten their point accross in about 1/3 the page count.
Profile Image for Caroline.
503 reviews562 followers
September 25, 2017
I have been interested in cognitive behavioural therapy, on and off, for many years, primarily because it is psychological flavour of the decade, or several decades.

On the other hand it presents perspectives which are often extremely alien to what I feel.... Often when I read books about CBT I just want to shout "No, no, no!!!" "Rubbish" and "You've got to be joking!"

This book went further than any other I've read to explain why CBT makes sense, why it's good for us, how it works, and how it can be applied to particular problems. It has been written by one of the leaders in the field, and someone who works with people with serious mental health problems. He runs a clinic in Pennsylvania with Dr Aaron Beck - another leader in the field of CBT. In the book he discusses all aspects of CBT in enough detail, from enough different angles, and with enough examples, that you really begin to get a solid idea of what the therapy is about, and how to use it.

The book also deals at length with depression, but can be be just as much benefit to people who aren't depressed - just a bit dissatisfied with their lives.

It's a 'doing' book - full of worksheets and exercises for the reader to use. I found it far better just to pick and mix rather than try and work my way through all the exercises. In fact if I had tried to do all the exercises I would have given up reading the book - there are just too many of them to tackle every one. Instead I made notes at the end of the book citing each exercise and worksheet...and the page number. This way I can go back in future and use them as and when I need them.

The building blocks of the whole book (& CBT in general) are described in a table about cognitive distortions

One of my personal favourite chapters was the one on anger - and this was a big surprise for me. Moi? Of course I have no problems with anger... I also got a lot from the one where Burns describes his own experiences of using CBT on his own cognitive distortions. In this chapter he shows himself to be very much an ordinary human being - with the same shortcomings that we all have. There is also, in the middle of the book, a harrowing Dysfunctional Attitude Scale test. (Well, harrowing for me, though I am sure you will all come out of it with your Girl Guide buttons twinkling ;O)) And this is followed by a very useful chapter tackling the issues raised by the results of this test.

The book isn't as long as it seems. The final big chapter of the book (pages 427-681) is all about drugs...which was a separate add on for later editions. I didn't read that part of the book, as it doesn't interest me.

I was so sure that I wasn't going to like this book. (Groan, another boring book on boring CBT....) But instead it was incredibly stimulating - and it made me question all sorts of things that I have previously taken for granted. It's also a keeper - and I say that as someone who gives 99% of her books to charity shops. I really want to use it as an ongoing workbook....

Final words? Do not buy the very small, fat little paperback version that I did. I wish I had got the hardback instead.


David Burns TED talk.

Profile Image for Jennifer.
9 reviews
January 5, 2011
Need to change your thinking? Need to find the will? Need to find hope? Need to find your worth?

This book doesn't do that for you.

But it teaches you how to change your thinking so YOU can discover these things that were there all along. I'm depressed... super-depressed and when I'm in a good frame of mind nothing is all that bad. But when I am in a slump, it's hard to even see the point in trying. Much less reading a stupid book. But this book even shows you what to do when you don't even want to try anymore. (However, if you feel this way, please seek counseling or help from more than just this book.)

All we have as humans is the ability to think and perceive and this is exactly how we create the world around us.

Either as a successful, fulfilling world with joy around every corner or a dark, judgmental, hopeless place of crushing expectations and let downs where nothing, including you, is ever, ever good enough.

It's all in the way we think. How amazing is it that the stupid question "Is the glass half empty or half full?" really holds more of life's answers than anything else encountered?
Profile Image for Hoboofawesome.
13 reviews
April 16, 2022
Most of the book is comprised of example therapy sessions he had with his patients. Every single one of them goes like this...

Next I will talk to Sheila, she is married to a wonderful man, has 5 successful happy children, is an award winning chef, helped her parents escape the Nazis, graduated from Harvard, is shockingly beautiful, and in her spare time she conducts orchestras. She came into my office feeling a bit down, let's see what happened next!

"I feel a bit down"
"WTF, why? You are of extreme importance to everyone around you and you live a perfect life."
"Oh yeah, I guess you are right! I feel so much better."

Ya see folks, it's just that easy! Now for anther example. Bob is worried he is going to be fired, lets see what happened next!
"I am really scared I am going to be fired, my boss has scheduled a meeting with me"
"Stop being worried Bob."
"OK thanks I feel less worried."
Next week, Bob returned to my office beaming with joy.
"So Bob, how did the meeting with your boss go? Was your anxiety justified?"
"Not only was I not in trouble, but she gave me a promotion and then confessed her undying love for me and we made whoopie right there on her desk."

Ya see folks, it's just that easy! Now for anther example...

The entire book is like that. I'll concede that sometimes people get stuck in little thought loops, and very gentle logical probing can break them out, but no one with actual problems could be helped by this book.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,967 followers
February 8, 2017
I rarely, if ever, DNF a book, but I had to with this one because I was bored spitless. I got through 80 pages and realized I had only read 40 because the other 40 were just white space. It also didn't help that I've studied this stuff for years and it's not even a refresher.

Moving on, pretending this never happened.
Profile Image for H.A. Fowler.
Author 6 books32 followers
January 31, 2011
I wanted to enjoy and recommend this book, but I suspect they must have extensively rewritten the newer edition. I don't see how any self-respecting person can get far being called "delusional" and "silly" among other things, over and over again. The tone of this edition is just horrible, and the "blame the victim" mentality on top of the dismissal of often life-saving medications, forced me to just give up on this book before I was even through the first three or four chapters.

As a former psych student, I know the theories contained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are legitimate and can be really helpful in recovery from many levels of depression, but you would never know it from this edition of this book.

Again, I can't speak for the newest edition which is hot on the stands right now.
Profile Image for Declan.
36 reviews3 followers
September 7, 2012
Read this as Carey Tennis off Salon had recommended it. Its basically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy you can do on your own, so like Cognitive Behavioural therapy it basically consists of totally avoiding any depth or introspection, and constantly screaming at yourself "Im utterly happy, Im the best me I can possibly be!"

If the way human beings felt inside themselves had any connection at all with the statements they makes, this might be a good approach. As humans are infinitely more complex than that, this is mostly the therepeutic equivalent of Pacific Island Cargo cults: Beleiving that headphones made out of bamboo will make planes full of goods land on your island.

93 reviews
July 12, 2014
My 3 rating doesn't mean I don't highly recommend this book. I do; take what is useful for you and leave the rest. The problem is some parts of the book are a 5+, amazing, but others made me cringe. There are wonderful steps and actions to take in order to work on improving your mood. I have just started doing the exercises, but as a patient who has been depressed for years despite drug and talk therapy, I can tell they are helping. That makes the book a 5 star for sure. However the misleading title "drug free" therapy is weird because he acknowledges that drugs can be useful for people (thank goodness). There was a strange antidote about a woman meticulously trying to win an abusive husband back with charts of how long they talked on the phone, cigars, and never being critical. How on earth is any of that a good idea? If he's abusive, HE needs to change. That part was a 1. Finally I'm not sure if I'm just not used to self help books, but the tone made me feel dumb. However, I emphasize the book is absolutely worth reading for the 5 star parts.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
77 reviews
January 8, 2015
Stopped reading about 100 pages in. It was written I think in the 80s, so although I'm sure a lot of the foundational pieces are really key and haven't changed, it just felt really old-fashioned for me. There was a lot of casual sexism that I struggled with, and it just felt more like a textbook than anything else, which made it difficult and not exciting to read. I'm sure I'll pick it up over the years and read diff parts of it, refer to diff pieces of it. It just wasn't for me right now.
Profile Image for Bota Suleimenova.
21 reviews3 followers
October 27, 2019
The reason I mostly hate self-help books is that self-help books never help.
12 reviews2 followers
June 22, 2011
When you feel bad, you go to a doctor, doctor looks at you and gives you pills for fixing your hormonal apparatus (which is fine, I promise you). You start taking pills, just for sleeping, then for overcoming depression, and then for something else and etc'. At some point you think, I cannot live without the pills, I'm addicted. But what about the real reason (which was wrong in the first place) your reasoning mechanism you are trying to shut down with pills?

This book is a self-help guide using cognitive behavioral therapy approach to fix your reason "twisted" thinking and conclusions, which then lead to various psychiatric disorders. The book is very light from one sight, but also a heavy encyclopedic book for CBT therapists. It includes every "twisted" thought in our minds including examples and how to overcome it. The book includes very good steps on how-to fix and solve your problems. It is a "lifting" book and improves your feeling while you're reading it. The most important is being positive about everything you do to solve your problem, and the book will help you.
Profile Image for Steffi.
63 reviews2 followers
February 4, 2011
Good insights, but I got the impression that the author thought that whoever would read the book would be stupid.
Profile Image for Billie Pritchett.
1,087 reviews86 followers
October 23, 2015
David Burns' Feeling Good is about the science of cognitive therapy. The theory states that your emotions are caused by your thoughts, and most negative emotions are caused by distortions in your thoughts, a series of illogical thoughts. They are:
(1) All-or-nothing thinking: Everything is perfect or everything is imperfect; everything is good or everything is evil; everything is correct or everything is incorrect; etc.
(2) Overgeneralization: One instance of something is used to explain all other instances.
(3) Mental filter: A matter of focusing on negative situations.
(4) Disqualifying the positive: Explaining away otherwise positive things as not so positive or maybe outright negaive.
(5) Jumping to conclusions, which comes in two flavors: (A) Mind reading, when you assume what others believe or how you think situations really are; or (B) Fortune telling, when you assume that the future will always be bad.
(6) Magnification of minimization: Making small things seem very seriously negative or big positive things trivial.
(7) Emotional reasoning: Assuming that because you feel a certain way that you are a certain way, for example feeling helpless and so believing you're helpless.
(8) Should statements: Expecting the world to conform to your criteria of what people should and shouldn't do and the way events should and shouldn't be, even though the world is not like that at all.
(9) Labeling and mislabeling: Incorrectly type-casting someone or something, assume someone is an idiot, for example, because they make a mistake.
(10) Personalization: Assuming responsibility for things and actions of other people that are clearly (if you think about it) out of control.
Those are the Big Ten, and obviously there is a lot of conceptual overlap. They amount to what are called logical fallacies in critical thinking or informal logic, but which here are being used to identify problems in thinking.

The remedy, Burns writes, is to write down your cognitive distortions when you have them, label them in one of the above categories, and provide a written reason for why the particular thought you have is wrong. For example, maybe you have this negative thought: "Everybody at my job hates me." Minimally, this is an example of mind reading, a form of jumping to conclusions but it could be and is likely connected to other cognitive distortions when you think about why you think this. Maybe you believe this because you think "Nobody talks to me at work in the morning, and they should talk to me." And so you see that because you think they should do this, an example of a should statement, you think that they don't like you. You should then reason, and write the reason, that just because people don't talk to you in the morning doesn't mean they hate you, and furthermore you don't have any other good reason for assuming that they hate you.

The above is just an example but this is how Burns recommended you do cognitive therapy on yourself. Of course, if you actually consult a cognitive therapist, he would give you exercises to this effect. It is not a cure-all, but it is on the right tracks to changing your thinking. I cannot stress enough Burns' insistence that you write down your cognitive distortions and correct them. Like exercise, when you do this, you are actively changing your thought patterns.

The only reason I don't give this a full five stars is because the book could have been shorter. And I think most of his anecdotes about patients are malarkey, made up to continue the flow of the narrative. But they serve as little parables for what he is trying to preach and what he encourages everyone to practice. Also, I confess to skimming the material about psychopharmacology because it was just plain boring and likely largely outdated. Plus I didn't read the last chapter. Anyway, I really liked this book, and I think it could be helpful, to me or anyone.

(Note: By the way, this is the first book I read on iBooks and on an iPhone 4. This book is available in digital format and very very very cheap.)
Profile Image for Jason Gibbons.
75 reviews30 followers
March 8, 2016
An absolute flaming pile of drivel that I would actually consider dangerous to a deeply depressed person. Stay away and if your therapist has this on their shelf, run.
Profile Image for Jan.
510 reviews15 followers
April 18, 2009
I seriously love this book. I've referred to parts of it multiple times throughout the last 8 years or so of my life. This is the first time I've read it all the way through - in the past I've felt better about halfway through and quit reading. I don't recommend you do this - read it all!

Dr. Burns is a cognitive behavioral therapist who uses this book to teach you how to use your own thoughts to improve your moods. The basic premise is that all of our feelings are created by our thoughts, and our thoughts are often distorted. By training you to recognize the distortions in your thoughts and, essentially, to "talk back" to them, Dr. Burns helps you help yourself feel better.

This book is packed with a lot of information. Personally, I find Dr. Burns's writing very accessible, although some chapters are so long that they get a little daunting.

Dr. Burns provides a lot of tools in the book to help you improve your moods. I firmly believe that reading the book alone is not enough to "cure" yourself - you MUST do the exercises he recommends.

I think this book is great for a wide range of people suffering the symptoms of depression, although it's obviously not a cure-all. I highly recommend you give it a chance whenever you've been feeling blue for a while.
Profile Image for Marley.
129 reviews109 followers
August 30, 2010
A pile of Seneca, a dollop of Zhuangzi, some good takedowns of Freud and Skinner, some 7th grade reading level and a lot of charts. Put it together, and you get the surprisingly functional methodology that is CBT. Feeling Good is exactly the self-help book one would imagine when reading the phrase "drug-semi skeptic psychiatrist with long history of clinical work writes highly structured, accessible cognitive therapy book for the lay audience." If that sounds a little less than utterly transformative, you're right; but if it sounds very workmanlike, kinda friendly and very functional, you're right too. Just stick to the chapters about people with your disorders, because the advice totally can flip around all sophistically if you're on the other end of the mood spectrum.

Oh, I forgot the great takedown of all this "you will run the world and it is the only way to live" ideology that infested my prep and ivy league educations. That actually is very comforting. Sometimes I forget how it oozed into me despite my rejecting it.
November 18, 2013
I credit this book with helping to save my life! I'm sure I was at a point where I was ready to hear and put into action the advice in this book which made it easier for me to receive and incorporate the advice into my life. But I think anybody would benefit from the advice and exercises in this book.

Our thoughts shape our perspective and there for shape our lives and our experiences. Changing those negative thoughts that form and turning them into positive ones are the key to success. This book provides real examples and ways to begin to train your brain to do just that!

Thank you Dr. Burns!
Profile Image for Breanna.
1 review
March 15, 2013
This book changed my life.

Dr. Burns is really easy to understand, and funny too, though I'm not sure if he means to be. I got through the book fairly quickly for its size, and I have currently been reading and re-reading it. It has become my bible. It comes with me everywhere. Once I read through it once, it became even easier to go back and find a certain subject if I felt I needed a little catch-up on something, so it is really excellent even after you do your initial reading. I wish I had the money to give out a copy to every single person I know who has issues with depression.
Profile Image for Melly.
161 reviews36 followers
November 14, 2022
Wretched. So unpleasant and unhelpful that it's put me off reading any more books in the genre. Not recommended for people and other living things.
Profile Image for Caroline.
4 reviews2 followers
June 27, 2008
I started out loving this book. His thesis is this: thoughts create emotion, not the other way around. But his tone is so condescending that I could barely make it to the end of this unecessarily fat book.
Profile Image for Abi.
359 reviews55 followers
August 1, 2018
Took me almost half a year to finish this - not because it was too slow or difficult, but because it’s a book that truly requires a lot of active reflection. This book explains in detail the theory and practical strategies for CBT for daily living, from the background of a psychiatrist.

In my opinion, everyone and anyone could benefit from understanding the principles of CBT. Every human on this planet has unfairly talked down to themselves, experienced a pattern of distorted thinking, procrastinated on something they shouldn’t have, had a bad day they blew out of proportion, etc. I wasn’t particularly looking for strategies for myself when I picked up this book, but I actually find myself using its ideas on a regular basis. Even though my life right now isn’t too stressful or anything, I still can benefit from dismantling illogical thoughts. And my days are a little smoother for it.

It’s not a particularly flashy or fancy book (plus it’s hella long), but it’s one that’s grounded in solid practical strategies for reshaping your automatic negative thoughts. Unlike its sexier self-help counterparts, it’s very practical and simple. However, it’s not a book that you can just read through in one gulp - you need to actually think about times where you’ve made certain mistakes, and illogical patterns of thinking. If you don’t take the time to reflect and be honest with yourself, you’ll gain nothing from CBT and dismiss is it as common sense.

To me, it’s like reading a book on how to ride a bicycle versus actually trying out a bicycle.

You need to take the time to match the theory with action. Or it just won’t help.

At the end, the author goes through more of the medicine around mood stabilization and some (fairly outdated) data on pharmaceuticals. You can skip that stuff if you’re not interested, and focus on the bulk of the book which is the practical components of improving daily mood.

All in all, would definitely recommend to anyone who’s looking for some self-improvement! Doesn’t matter who - we all could benefit.
Profile Image for Joshua R. Taylor.
156 reviews3 followers
October 27, 2018
It took me nearly a month to study all of the parts of this book that felt relevant to me, just part time on the weekends and on the evenings where I felt especially energetic. A very rewarding experience indeed.

David Burns lays out the base layer for cognitive therapy (CT, not to be confused with 'cognitive behavioral therapy' which is a more general term), using terminology that anybody could understand, and provides a ton of scenarios of how the therapy is applied. The presence of these scenarios are in a way to make up for the lack of a real therapist, since ordinarily the therapist would apply their methodology to your own life. Here Burns teaches you his methodology (likely a pruned down version of it), gives plenty of examples and encourages you to do the same application on yourself.

Most chapters include exercises to help you apply the theory, such as the 'three column technique' and 'vertical arrow technique'. These sound gimmicky at face value, but were actually incredibly useful in helping me to analyse my thinking. Similarly with just memorizing the ways in which negative emotions can distort your thinking, so you can catch out the illogical ways of thinking that occur during bad moods.

Despite taking me nearly a month to study, I skipped all of the chapters that felt irrelevant to me and my life. For example the chapters on anger management (I rarely get or feel angry), love addiction (I feel somewhat more developed here), approval addiction (ditto), suicide prevention (not a problem for me) and the chemistry of anti-depressants (which I never intend to take).

I would recommend this book for anybody with even the slightest history of mental illness or has exhibited even mild mood disorder symptoms, with the exception of those who have already gone through CBT. It provides useful and concrete tools to help you cope with everyday mood swings that feel overwhelming.

The major caveat of the book is the tone of the author. I found it okay for the most part, but it got extremely condescending and certain parts. This doesn't make the information the author wants to convey incorrect (see Tone Policing) but it just makes the reading experience a little unpleasant at times. Another caveat is the scenarios I mentioned earlier can be overtly-exhaustive and take up tons of the books content. Sometimes if you get a concept and want to move on to the next then you'll need to wade through these scenarios to reach it.
Profile Image for Prerana.
1,164 reviews355 followers
December 30, 2021
This was a good introduction to cognitive behavioral therapy and had a lot of useful tips for people dealing with depression or other mood disorders. The writing and presentation of the advice and techniques wasn't the strongest, but the actual advice presented was useful. And I'm out.
Profile Image for Jane.
3 reviews3 followers
January 2, 2009
This book can help you identify twisted thinking and then change it to something more realistic. It was amazing to me to discover just how twisted, unhelpful and just plain irrational my thinking was! Most negative thinking falls into these categories. But so does "positive thinking" and affirmations -- they can be just as black and white, twisted and unhelpful. Feeling Good teaches you how to identify what Burns calls cognitive distortions and replace them with more rational and reasonable thoughts. Eg the thought "I never do anything right" is an example of all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, jumping to conclusions, fortune-telling, and discounting the positive. Whew! Reading this book is like installing new and upgraded software into your mind. I only wish I had read it 30 years ago when it was first published!
Profile Image for عبد القادري.
Author 3 books43 followers
December 27, 2018

Meticulous, well-developed, and effectively informative, this book is a personal psycho-therapeutic guide for mood problems. After reading it you cannot but unconsciously refer to some of its sections. One of its methods, "Disarming the Critic", helped me on a few occasions. Although the final section becomes purely pharmacological, intended for patients with depression, mania, etc..., the book suits every person of any age. My only comment was Dr. Burn's case-exemplifying problems of first-world clients, which are unfortunately dissimilar to people's problems from other parts of the world.

A must read. And a must re-read.
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