Dear Dr. Burns
I suffer from social anxiety and depression. I feel that I don’t need to see a therapist and believe that CBT will be enough to help me.
I have purchased three of your books: The Feeling Good Handbook, Ten Days to Self Esteem and Intimate Connections. This might be overkill but I really wanted to cover all the bases.
However now I am confused and don’t know where to start and how to manage the learning. Which book should I work on first and how long do you think it should take to work through any given book? I believe somewhere you suggest that the Feeling Good Handbook this should be completed within 30 days. Any advice would be much appreciated.
Dr. David’s Answer
Thank you for your question. There are no rules of the road. Ten Days to Self Esteem is the shortest and easiest book, with exercises you can complete at each of the 10 steps. Essentially, it is a 10-step program to teach you the basics of CBT and to show you how to boost your own self-esteem. The publisher has insisted on the name, Ten Days to Self Esteem, but I would prefer the name, Ten Steps to Self-Esteem, so you can complete it at your own pace.
Intimate Connections can be very helpful for loneliness and shyness–it is about the power dynamics of dating to some extent, and how to communicate, how to flirt, how to get people to chase you, how to deal with rejection, and so forth. It also shows you how to overcome the fear of being alone. It is somewhat autobiographical, too, since these are issues I struggled with when I was growing up.
The Feeling Good Handbook is a strong book with a focus on depression as well as anxiety, including shyness, and relationship conflicts as well.
I would start with any one of them and focus on it. There is considerable overlap, so once you learn the techniques they will all flow very easily for you. The key is doing the exercises while you read. The people who do the exercises are almost always the ones who benefit the most from any of my books.
It is kind of like riding a bicycle. You can’t learn to ride by reading about bicycles or watching people ride bicycles. You’ve got to get on a bicycle and give it a try. It might feel a bit shaky, or new and unfamiliar at first, but you can quickly learn to ride.
Research studies have shown that many people can use these books without a therapist and benefit tremendously. Some people with more severe or long-standing will also need the help of a skillful and compassionate therapist, of course.
I am now working on something new and extremely exciting, and will announce it as soon as possible on this website.
Thanks so much!
David Burns, M.D.