The uses of hopelessness

Am J Psychiatry. 1984 Apr;141(4):559-62. doi: 10.1176/ajp.141.4.559.


If most emotional problems, like most medical problems, are caused by bad luck as well as by factors over which man has control, then those who suffer from such problems must accept a burden of helplessness. When patients and their families overuse theories of causality to avoid accepting their helplessness and to create an illusory sense of human control, unjust assignment of responsibility and excessive expectations for change may erode self-esteem and make change more difficult. The authors present examples of interventions that challenge the overuse of theories of causality. Although these interventions aroused hopelessness, they also fostered realistic hope and change.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Affective Symptoms / etiology
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Affective Symptoms / therapy
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Family Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Therapy
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Theory
  • Psychotherapy*
  • Self Concept