Dysfunction Interrupted (★★★★★)

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Audrey Sherman   *   Concord Publishing   *   August 20, 2015   *   320 Pages

Advanced Reader Copy provided by the publisher through Net Galley.

I don’t know that I can give a better description of this book than the one printed on its cover. Dr. Sherman’s goal is to help readers “quickly overcome depression, anxiety, and anger.” And she makes a pretty good go of it, too.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 discusses major patterns of family dysfunction, focusing mainly on different kinds of unhealthy parenting styles–from sexually abusive parents, to “checked out” parents, to controlling parents, to invalidating parents, and the list goes on. This was one of my favorite parts of the book. I thought it was very insightful.

Part 2 talks about the different symptoms and disorders people experience when they’ve grown up in abusive and unhealthy homes. Sherman touches on DSM-level diagnoses (like anxiety and attachment disorders), but she also talks about more generalized symptoms, too, like boundary issues, codependency, learned helplessness, low self-esteem, poor coping strategies, hypervigilance, and trust issues.

Part 3 is where the healing “program” begins. Sherman details a nine-step recovery process that includes learning how to self-soothe, using a cognitive-based approach to dispute negative thoughts and alter your irrational reactions, using biofeedback to gain power over your physical symptoms (this step was fascinating to me), using more advanced thinking skills, overcoming fear, setting boundaries, taking care of your body, and learning how to live an organized life. Some of those steps probably sound too vague to be useful, but she goes into a lot of detail with all of them, and her advice is always practical, direct, logical, and, most importantly, doable.

I have to say that Dr. Sherman surprised me with her insight. Her style isn’t very…hm, how do I say this?…academic. Some of the writing in here can get a little rough, honestly. But there’s no denying the power of Sherman’s message. I’ve read a ton of self-help/family dysfunction books, but I still learned so much. In particular, I loved Sherman’s discussion on the different types of family dysfunction (Part I), and I found her suggestions for self-soothing, creating goals, and acknowledging personal strengths (all in Part 3) to be incredibly helpful. Also, the section on boundaries was so completely sensible and easy to put into practice, that I found it very empowering.

There is so much good stuff in this book. It took me some time to work through and process all the information and suggestions, but Dysfunction Interrupted genuinely helped me look at my life and my habits of thinking in a different way. I don’t know if everyone will have the same reaction I did, but this one ended up being life-changing for me.

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