013: Ask David — Is Anxiety Inevitable?

A fan points out that many of the examples in David’s book, When Panic Attacks, are high functioning individuals with lots of education and good jobs. She asks Dr. Burns if depression and anxiety are inevitable among people who are poorly educated and without many assets. Dr. Burns again addresses the ancient but persistent question of whether our suffering results from the actual problems in our lives, or rather by our distorted thoughts about them.

He describes the treatment program he created at his hospital in Philadelphia for individuals with little education and few resources, including gang members and homeless individuals. He also describes his work with a depressed, suicidal high school student with significant intellectual and physical impairments who was absolutely convinced she was a failure, and concludes with a story about a depressed woman recently diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer.

If, like so many people, you also believe that your own mood slumps are caused by the problems in your life, this heart-warming episode may be an eye-opener for you!

012: Negative and Positive Distortions (Part 3)

In this final podcast on the ten cognitive distortions, David and Fabrice discuss Should Statements, Labeling, and Blame. He brings these distortions to life with a case of a severely depressed woman who felt profoundly guilty and devastated after her brother’s tragic suicide. Dr. Burns also describes the negative thoughts of an individual who experienced horrific childhood abuse, and concludes with a surprising vignette of an elderly woman who was absolutely convinced that the problems in her marriage over the past 35 years were entirely her husband’s fault.

011: Negative and Positive Distortions (Part 2)

In this podcast, David and Fabrice discuss the three common distortions: Jumping to Conclusions (including Mind-Reading and Fortune-Telling), Magnification and Minimization (also called the Binocular Trick), and Emotional Reasoning. David explains how the negative versions of these distortions trigger feelings of depression, inferiority, anger, anxiety, shyness, and hopelessness, and how the positive versions can lead to bad habits, such as procrastination and binge-eating, and also helped to trigger the Iraq war.

010: Negative and Positive Distortions (Part 1)

Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Greek Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, emphasized that we are upset, not by what happens to us, but rather by our thoughts and interpretations of those events. A significant advance in this ancient theory occurred in the 1950s and 1960s when Dr. Albert Ellis, from New York, and Dr. Aaron Beck, from Philadelphia emphasized that the thoughts that upset us when we’re feeling depressed, anxious, or angry are nearly always distorted and illogical. As Dr. Burns emphasized in his book, Feeling Good, depression and anxiety are the world’s oldest cons, because you’re almost always telling yourself something that’s actually untrue. But you probably do not realize that you’re fooling yourself because your negative thoughts, like “I’m a loser,” or “Things are hopeless,” or “I shouldn’t have screwed up” seem as valid and real to you as the skin on your hands.

In this podcast, David and Fabrice discuss the first four of ten common thought distortions that trigger negative feelings: All-or-Nothing Thinking, Overgeneralization, Mental Filter, and Discounting the Positive. Dr. Burns explains that each negative distortion also has a mirror-image positive version as well, and these positive distortions trigger hatred, violence, narcissism, and mania, as well as habits and addictions. See if you can recognize some of your own distorted thinking patterns as you listen to this podcast!

009: Should I Try to Be Happy All the Time? Healthy vs. Unhealthy Emotions

In previous podcasts David and Fabrice have discussed how negative feelings are created and how to change them. In this podcast, they address another question—when we’re feeling depressed, anxious, or angry, should we accept our feelings or try to change them?

Dr. Burns describes his confusion when he was an insecure Stanford medical student and a favorite patient began to die. He discusses the concept of sadness as celebration, and summarizes Aaron Beck’s theory of Cognitive Specificity.

008: M = Methods (Part 2) — You Can CHANGE the Way You FEEL

In this Podcast, Dr. Burns describes his work with a severely depressed, suicidal, hospitalized woman with rapidly cycling bipolar illness, who’d had 15 years of failed treatment with drugs and psychotherapy. She was telling herself:

  1. This f___ing disease has ruined my life.

  2. I’m a burden to my family.

  3. My family and doctors would be better off if I were dead.

She was absolutely convinced that each of these negative thoughts was 100% true. Dr. Burns used several T.E.A.M. methods to help her challenge those thoughts, including Identify the Distortions, Examine the Evidence, the Experimental Technique, the Externalization of Voices, and the Acceptance Paradox. Listen to this podcast and find out about the shocking and rather unexpected impact of those techniques.


007: M = Methods (Part 1) — You FEEL the Way You THINK

In this Podcast, Dr. Burns describes the three basic principles of what has been called “cognitive therapy:”

  1. Negative feelings, like depression, anxiety, and anger, do not result from what happens to us, but rather from our thoughts about what’s happening. In fact, our thoughts, or “cognitions,” create all of our emotions, positive and negative.
  2. When you’re depressed or anxious, the negative thoughts that trigger your distress, like “I’m no good,” or “Things will never change,” are distorted or illogical. In fact, depression is the world’s oldest con.
  3. When you change the way you THINK, you can change the way you feel.

Dr. Burns describes a challenge he received in a thoughtful letter from a fan shortly after his book, Feeling Good, was published. The young man argued that when something horrible happens, the event itself can upset you, and asked, “Let’s say you’re trapped on a railroad track a a train is coming. Isn’t it true that you’d feel terrified, and the event would cause your terror, even without having time to put a negative thought in your head?” 

Shortly after reading the letter, Dr. Burns stumbled across an elderly man about to be hit by a train. You may be surprised to find out what happened!

Dr. Burns also describes the powerful and painful impact of his own negative thoughts when he was a young psychiatric in training and he received a stinging criticism from his supervisor, Dr. Aaron Beck.