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Self-Criticism Can Be Debilitating, Even Lethal

Self-Criticism Can Be Debilitating, Even Lethal

December 28, 2015

Social Sciences & Humanities

A new book by Prof. Golan Shahar of BGU’s Department of Psychology reveals that self-criticism can be both mentally and physically harmful, leading to mental disorder, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, and even suicide.

The book, Erosion: The Psychopathology of Self-Criticism, summarizes two decades of scholarship – empirical and theoretical research and clinical work – conducted by Prof. Shahar, who is a clinical-health psychologist.

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Prof. Golan Shahar

Throughout the book, Prof. Shahar identifies the mechanisms through which self-criticism confers vulnerability to psychopathology. Self-criticism, he argues, propels people to involve themselves in stressful events such as rejection by others, relationship breakups, and professional failures to avoid engaging in the positive life experiences they feel they do not deserve.

“Self-criticism,” Shahar explains, “is an intense and persistent relationship with the self characterized by (1) an uncompromising demand for high standards in performance and (2) an expression of hostility and derogation toward the self when these high standards are, inevitably, not met.”

This type of dangerous self-criticism, he notes, is psychologically quite different from the transient “fish for compliments” type, which he argues is not pathological, unlike its more harmful counterpart.

Prof. Shahar also serves as a visiting professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine and as lead editor of the Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).