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talljasperman's avatar

Is learned helplessness a real disorder?

Asked by talljasperman (21820points) January 7th, 2013

Is it listed in a reference book of medince? What is the code? Can one take a pill to cure it ?... or is the making someone do something scary over and over the only way to treat the disorder? Can someone tell how it can feel when the helplessness is treated?

psychiatry, disorder,

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6 Answers

Shippy's avatar

I don’t know if it is a disorder or more of a way of thinking or interacting with the world. I feel that feeling often, when I am depressed. It is a hopeless self defeating cycle. And its best to learn a way out of it. By therapy.

harple's avatar

I believe it is the sort of symptom that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy would be best suited to treating. Here’s a recent question about CBT that had a lot of good answers that will explain better than me about that particular type of therapy.

wundayatta's avatar

Learned helplessness is mentioned in the DSM IV, the outgoing diagnostic and statistical manual for psychiatrists. It is a part of many conditions, including general anxiety disorder, depression and bipolar disorder, as well as others. You would need to look at the manual itself, to see where it mentions learned helplessness, but I suspect it is mentioned often, based on the google search I did. It’s in lots of textbooks.

As @harple suggested, CBT is one common method for treating it. There is no pill to take. If you treat it effectively, you will feel more capable of handling certain problems that you have learned to believe cannot be treated. Most people learn helplessness through some kind of repeated trauma that they were never able to stop—such as childhood abuse. An example would be where they have come to expect everyone to abuse them, and that they can’t say no to that abuse or stop it in any way. They have learned they are powerless and ineffective, and the logical thing to do is to stop trying.

The treatment you mentioned is desensitization therapy. You are put in the traumatic situation over and over until you do something to stop it, and theoretically, you learn to take action and learn that you can take action and change things.

These questions are good for background information, but you cannot know the treatment in your case until you see a therapist and see what they propose. If you know you don’t want desensitization therapy, you can find a therapist that doesn’t offer that (so long as you don’t have learned helplessness on the issue of finding therapy).

I encourage you to empower yourself. Look around for many different therapists. Interview them on the phone and ask what their approach to treatment would be. See if you can find anyone who has a therapist, and ask them how they like their therapist. A good place to find people is in a support group. Maybe a GAD support group or a depression or bipolar support group. You will find a lot of people with therapists who are willing to talk about their experiences and who they like and don’t like and what they have done to deal with their problems.

Good luck. You sound a little desperate. I encourage you to reach out for help. It may seem impossible, but I assure you that you can get the help you need. You will have to advocate for yourself, which can be hard. But it will be worth it.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I would probably describe it as a symptom of another disorder rather than a disorder on its own.

Sunny2's avatar

It can be passive aggression and it can be an unconscious rather than conscious reaction.and I agree with @Lightlyseared.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Learned Helplessness in an (old) model intended to explain behavioural features of depression.

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