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The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism 1999-2001

Annie Murphy Paul

Senior Editor
More Magazine
New York, New York

Topic: The promises and perils of self-help approaches to mental and emotional problems

Published Work:

A Rehab of One's Own: Gender-Specific Recovery Programs for Women are Gaining Ground, Despite Criticism of Their Warm and Fuzzy Approach
Welcome to the Hanley-Hazelden Center for Women's Recovery, a kinder, gentler -- and gender-specific -- sort of rehab.

Self-Help: Shattering the Myths
It's no surprise that America-land of second chances, fabled site of self-invention-also harbors an endless appetite for self-help. From Poor Richard to Dale Carnegie to Tony Robbins, we love the idea that we can fix what's broken by ourselves, without the expensive ministrations of a doctor or shrink. The limits of HMOs, and the limitlessness of the Internet have lately made self-help even more appealing: Americans spent $563 million on self-help books last year and surfed more than 12,000 Web sites devoted to mental health. An estimated 40 % of all health-related Internet inquiries are on mental health topics, and depression is the number-one most researched illness on the Web.

Final Report for The Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship, 1999-2000, Self-Help for Psychological Problems: Empowering, or Endangering?
Say the words 'self-help,' and the image that leaps to many minds is a cheap paperback, written, perhaps, by Dale Carnegie or Norman Vincent Peale, the cover of which promises fame, fortune and a gaggle of new friends in thirty days or less.

Chains of Love
"Love is a bodily process," declared Thomas Lewis and his collaborators, and no, they're not talking about sex. The three psychiatrists (Fari Amini and Richard Lannon are the others) are making the case for "A General Theory of Love," which is, simply stated: Stop thinking so much. Our romance with logic and reason, they contend, has obscured the fact that underneath our cerebral conversation and witty banter, we're still primitive creatures, hungry for the touch of another's skin and the sound of another's heartbeat. Bodies carry on their own love affairs, and the intellect doesn't have much to do with this visceral experience.

Painting Insanity Black: Why Are There More Black Schizophrenics?
Lawson immediately took the men off the anti-psychotic medication they'd been prescribed, replacing it with the psychotherapy and antidepressants that have proven effective in relieving PTSD.

The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies and Misunderstand Ourselves (link no longer available)
Millions of Americans take personality tests each year: to get a job, to pursue an education, to settle a legal dispute, to better understand themselves and others. But where did these tests come from, and what are they saying about us? In The Cult of Personality, award-winning psychology writer Annie Murphy Paul reveals the surprising and disturbing story behind the tests that claim to capture human nature.

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives (link no longer available)
What makes us the way we are? Some say it's the genes we inherit at conception. Others are sure it's the environment we experience in childhood. But could it be that many of our individual characteristics-our health, our intelligence, our temperaments-are influenced by the conditions we encountered before birth?

Are There Faster, More Effective Ways to Treat Depression?
Nearly 25 years after the Prozac revolution, scientists are seeking faster, more effective ways to loosen the grip of depression.

10 Ways You Get Smarter as You Get Older
It's true that as you get older, your brain's processing speed begins to slow, and your memory may occasionally short out, says Margaret Gatz, Ph.D., professor of psychology, gerontology, and preventive medicine at the University of Southern California. But researchers have recently made some surprising discoveries about what's really happening in our heads as we age: "We are identifying ways in which older minds hold their own against younger ones and even surpass them," Gatz says.

Mind Reading
Whether we know it or not, we're all street-corner psychics. Without the ability to divine others' thoughts and feelings, we couldn't handle the simplest social situations-or achieve true intimacy with others.

Am I Normal?
A more organic take on human nature is emerging. It sees behavior as a product of distinct personality traits that we all have to a greater or lesser degree. In this new view, we're all just a little bit crazy.

The Hypomanic American
The people who come to see Alden Cass, a therapist with a practice in Manhattan, make their living from the market: bankers, brokers, traders, financial advisers. They're a special breed. ''These guys love risk,'' says Cass. ''They eat it for breakfast.''

Invasion of the Minnesota Normals
How a personality test described as "A Joycean Soliloquy in Whitanic Rhythms, the Interior Monologue of a Neurotic Modern Everyman" became corporate America's barometer of employability

Listening to Prozac
More than half the experts who compile the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders have ties to the pharmaceutical industry, according to a study published last month in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. Produced by the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM is the guidebook used by mental-health professionals to diagnose mental illness.

Band of Sisters
It began, fittingly enough, in intimate conversations among friends. Relational psychology - based on the idea that connection, not individuation, is the key to human nature - emerged out of discussions among a small group of female psychologists and psychiatrists in the mid-1970's. All of them lived and worked in the Boston area, a kind of Metaphysical Club in Birkenstocks and wooden jewelry.

Can You Instill Mental Toughness?
To be mentally tough is to resist the urge to give up in the face of failure, to maintain focus and determination in pursuit of one's goals, and to emerge from adversity even stronger than before.

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