A psychologist explains why you need to escape the toxic world of self-help

A psychologist explains why you need to escape the toxic world of self-help

Many people come to therapy wondering why consuming self-help content isn’t helping them. They ask questions like:

  • “I’ve read more self-help books than anyone I know. It makes me feel inferior because other people don’t seem to need it as much as I do. What’s wrong with me ?”
  • “My mindset changes with every self-help guru I meet. Because of this, I am unable to pursue my self-improvement goals. What should I do about it?”
  • “I spend a lot of money on charity events. Sometimes I don’t even want to go, but I’m afraid of missing out on valuable advice. How do I select and choose? »
  • “My Instagram feed is full of self-help influencers claiming their method is the best. How do I know who to trust?

From how-to books to life coaching seminars, self-help is a multi-billion dollar market. While there’s nothing wrong with looking for ways to improve, self-help isn’t a silver bullet. In fact, it can do more harm than good.

For example, one study showed that those who consumed self-help books had higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and were more likely to have depressive symptoms than those who did not. .

The problem may be that most of the self-help content available to the masses follows a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health.

Look at it this way. When you seek help from a mental health professional, they listen to you, understand you, and offer solutions tailored to your unique situation.

On the contrary, when someone writes a self-help book, their goal is to sell to as many people as possible. Thus, self-help content is often oversimplified and softened with a false sense of hope and unnecessary pats on the back. This is why so many people feel they can relate to these books and feel happy reading them; it is essentially toxic positivity.

Understand that when it comes to self-help, it’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of books, seminars, and videos without really addressing the issues in your life. It can become an addiction in its own right. Often, finding self-help content is a symptom rather than a solution.

Here are two ways to improve without being drawn into the toxic world of self-help.

#1. Understand that not all mutual aid is equal

In general, the self-help industry likes to promise easy solutions to all your mental health issues. In fact, that’s what makes them sell in such large numbers.

But ask yourself this: if these promises were true, why do so many people rely on trained mental health practitioners for help with their mental health issues? Although millions of self-help gurus are selling their magic solutions online, why is the demand for mental health practitioners ever-increasing?

Indeed, when it comes to helping people with a serious problem such as mental health, legitimacy is paramount. Unfortunately, a good percentage of self-help gurus have no qualifications to discuss the topics they choose to discuss.

A classic study published in The American Psychologist suggested that because self-help is often laypeople helping laypeople, the solutions described in self-help books may not take into account the nuanced symptoms of an individual, which a psychotherapist is trained to interpret. The study, which reviewed more than 100 studies and case reports, also found that self-help treatment plans were often not easy to follow and were susceptible to public misinterpretation. targeted.

There are legitimate sources of self-help. These are the ones who don’t exaggerate their mission statements. Keep an eye out for these sources. Always have it performed by a trained mental health professional before committing to a do-it-yourself treatment plan.

#2. Understand the importance of setting goals and taking action

The business model of many self-help gurus is based on two related ideas:

  • Sell ​​wellness content to a large audience
  • Get repeat customers

That’s why you often hear them talk about their exclusive newsletter, ebook, video or seminar. They have built a loyal following of their “solutions” framework.

To stay on track, it is important that you think for yourself. Don’t be vague about your self-improvement goals.

A study published in Current directions in psychological sciences explained the importance of goal setting to improve motivation, self-esteem, self-reliance and self-confidence. And, as we know, you’re more likely to achieve your goal if your goal is challenging and well-defined.

Once you know what you want to improve, use legitimate self-help sources. Take the tips you can implement in your everyday life, put them into practice, and don’t dwell on the next problem to solve.

Understand that self-help content should be based on its own merits, not your loyalty to the guru who created it.


Self-help books can be a great resource for personal growth. However, it is important to be aware of the dangers of unregulated advice, quick fixes and one-size-fits-all solutions. When used with caution and critical thinking, self-help materials can be an invaluable tool in your journey of personal growth and development.

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