Life Code by Dr. Phil McGraw – a book review

I saw Dr. Phil promoting his new book Life Code on FOX News last week. He said he wrote the book because he wanted to warn his granddaughters about the real evils in the world, and he wanted to give them life strategies for success and happiness.

I agree with another reviewer who said Dr. Phil spent too much time in the first chapter telling you what he was going to teach you. I wanted to dive in; I was frustrated to get to the good stuff, but once the book got rolling, it had me in its grip.

In the first half of the book, Dr. Phil teaches about the bad guys—how to spot and defeat them. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I immediately recognized he was referring to certain personality disordered individuals—sociopaths, narcissists, and borderlines—without calling them that.  What’s unique is that he grouped all three into one type of person you would want to stay away from. He shared the clues about how to spot them and how to react once you know what you’re dealing with.

Christians might have a problem with this, seeing every person as redeemable, but the truth is—and Dr. Phil compels readers to understand—is that there really are bad people in the world. People who want to cheat, hurt, and steal from you and your loved ones. Of course, these evil people are on a continuum. Not every sociopath wants to molest and kill you. Some just want your money. Or your spouse. The point is, these people do not have the ability to empathize like regular folks. They could care less who they hurt and you need to know these people are very real. They are not lurking around every corner, but it’s guaranteed you have bumped elbows with them.

Dr. Phil describes how he took an inventory of every person who had hurt him in his lifetime. He hung pieces of paper all over the walls and used a colored marker to describe in detail what the offender’s strategy was, what tricks he used, how he came across, and how he got Dr. Phil to let down his guard. Once these were analyzed,  Dr. Phil saw a clear set of clues that should have been a warning.

This book is all about showing readers those red flags.

The second half of the book deals with rules for winning in the world. Dr. Phil covers everything from how to stop being a target, to how to behave in an argument. He gives tricks for negotiation, and rules for parenting in the modern world.

The best aspect of this book is the real life examples Dr. Phil shares. Everyone would be wise to read this book.

Life Code is published by Dr. Phil’s son, Jay McGraw’s, publishing company, Bird Street Books, and can only be purchased through their online bookstore TheBookNook.com You can read more reviews here.

Watch more here:


Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty professor at Colorado Christian University.

She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."
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29 Comments

  1. Lucille, I think this is a wonderful review. This sounds like exactly the type of book I would want to give to my daughter, as well as all friends who might be as naive as I was when I first graduated from high school…and college…and grad school!

    • Rosslyn, that’s exactly what I’m doing…I’m passing it on to my daughter and her boyfriend to read.
      It is as practical for men as it is for women.

      Jordyn Redwood highly recommends The Gift of Fear by Gavin Debecker.

  2. This is a great review. It will save me the price of the book. What Dr. Phil is relating is bullying under another name. I put together the same list of characteristics and remedies taken from Tim Field’s blog “Bully on Board.” I included my examples of bulling and it has garnered over 8,000 hits. No I am not promoting or bragging. The information is from the experts. I just put it together and gave credit. I am sure the book will help many who are not familiar with these traits because of his name and reputation, as the information is good but there is nothing new there.

    • correction: I meant Bully on Line” not Bully on Board.”

    • Many Information distributed today is not new, but obviously our world still has not understood quite a few things, which is why it needs people like Dr. Phil, that combined with their experience and knowledge are willing to spend time and money to remember us of very important facts and values. We do not learn to walk at our first attempt, it is the repeated trying of it that gets us to stand up. It is the same with such information. The more we are hearing it, the more we are confronted with it, the better and faster it will sink in.

  3. I read Dr. Phil’s book Self Matters. It was life changing. I look forward to getting life code by Dr. Phil the future. Thank you so much for the review!

  4. Good review.
    Just one thing, I keep seeing people use the phrase “could care less” surely it should be “could not care less”. Think of it this way if a person could care less then they have at least some care to lessen. If they could not care less it is because they already have zero care.

    • Thanks for catching that. Hopefully you were able to see past my grammar and receive benefit from the book review :-)

  5. As a borderline, I think it’s really unfair for him to lump people with this disorder into one category. I have not ruined relationships and watch for my red flags and have done cbt to keep my relationships healthy. I do have tendencies to lie for attention. I have had to find ways to see when my need comes up and temper them with healthy avenues so I don’t set myself and others up for hurt.

  6. jane muia

    After reading all the comments, I can not wait to buy the book and start reading it. I fell in love with it after listening to Dr Phil himself talk about it.I have been so naïve in many thing and many ways and a lot of people have step over me over and over, and now its time I wake up and start seeing far.

  7. Rick watts

    A classic case of the elite rich and blatant greed. Dr Phil & his son will make many tens of millions on this book. He already has made a vast fortune from TV but I guess that’s just not enough, He needs more money. If he really wanted to help people he could offer the information for free via many other means besides an expensive book. The book business is a lucrative business. It’s just as shameful as the excercise video his daughter made a while ago that he was peddling on his show. Like Mick Jaggar once said “enough is never enough”. The economy is still stagnant and many millions are still out of work and suffering but not the McGraws, they redifine the word greedy.

  8. BadgerTim

    Lucille – Common mis-speak…not to worry!

    I am more troubled by the use, here in the South, of

    the word petition when referring to a wall separating two

    Spaces… It’s a PARTITION…

    By the way, Good review..

  9. I personaly love Dr. Phil. I think what he does is very proffessional and respectful and gives alot of people out there alot of help. I watch is shows everyday. I just can’t get enough. I would love to read this book and can’t wait to. He knows what he’s talking about.

    • I like him a lot too. He is smart and he has a consummate team of experts behind him. No, I don’t always agree with sensationalism and therapy on TV, but the trade off is how many people he helps.

  10. Dear Lucille,
    I have a nineteen year old daughter that is dating a guy like Dr.Phil describes, all our family members are so worried. She really seems to have the blinders on. I keep giving her articles on controlling people. Just read your review on Life Code after seeing Dr.Phil mention it on his show. It will be worth it if I can get my daughter to see the danger she is in with the individual she is with now. Thanks for a great review of Dr. Phil’s book. Darla

  11. Cornelia gallaway

    I totally disagree with your review. My main objection is the way you use the words ” mental disorders” and ” evil” interchangeably. I believe this is the largest stigmatic obstacle this country encounters in the curing of mental illness. I also found Dr. Phil’s book to be sophomoric and it’s really scared that so many people found it enlightening. Granted, I am 62 years old but I simply see this book as a Compilation of the wisdom of age. Not rocket science but , hpfully of benefit to our youth.

    • Lucille

      Thank you for sharing your views. I don’t mean to imply that all mental disorders are evil. That is not the case at all.
      I just mean to say that some people are evil. They intend to hurt and they don’t care if they hurt.

  12. I am a Christian and was widowed 7 1/2 years ago. Three and a half years ago I met and married a “wonderful”, “caring” man…..over the course of time it became apparent that he was a sociopath. Even though I have the Bible to guide me I have had to learn some harsh realities of life. I will be getting Life Code right away. We have to be educated.

    • Lucille

      That’s interesting. Most people don’t realize sociopaths aren’t all murderers. Many just want to rob your money or take your spouse, or whatever it is they want. They seem incapable of empathy.

  13. Christina

    I hope I am not taking this too far off topic, however I would like to know more about what a sociopath is. I have read up on it, and I keep reading about a spectrum, and I would like to know how “wide” that spectrum is? I think the male I was in a relationship with is a sociopath, but he is not as extreme as some that I have heard of. But he lies all the time, only cares about his needs with no thought as to how that may affect others, and always looks to be the victum, no matter his actions. There is more then just these things, but I don’t want to be too long winded. I need to know how I find out if he is a sociopath. Can you enlighten me at all?

    • Lucille

      Christina, that’s a great question, and not too far off topic. Some of what you say sounds like narcissistic behavior. Sociopaths like to do things to be cruel. For instance, and I’m not diagnosing, but these famous people you hear about in the news who do Ponzi schemes, more for the sake of screwing over their friends and neighbors could be seen as sociopathic. It’s not about the getting wealthy, it’s about the con and the hurting of innocent people.

      Dave Cullen, in his book Columbine, has the best chapter on sociopaths. He spent a lot of time researching what the experts say.

  14. Thanks for the review. Searched for this review and was happy to find it. I was wondering what the book was about and it sounds interesting. I missed how long of a read it is…pages? And is it really meant for a young women or does the book expand to all makes and models?

    • Lucille

      Hi Scott, thanks for your comments.
      I’d say it’s about an average length. Roughly 200 pages.

      It applies to all makes and models.

  15. Is a translatopn in Dutch from your ” Life Code” available?
    Warm Greetings Ina

  16. Repeat: is a translation in Dutch available from the “Life Code”?
    Warm Greetings from The Netherlands Ina

  17. Dr. Phil makes it sound like everyone with a personality disorder is a Baiter. He has a few things to learn. I am very disappointed with Dr. Phil.

  18. I was disappointed. The book vaguely reminded me of the much earlier “People of the Lie” by Scott Peck. Really Dr Phils book could be condensed into a magazine article. I had to wade through so much padding to get to any beef. There is so much recycled stuff Ive read and heard before. His description of the types of people out to get you is rather superficial a d unsubtle. Very obvious stuff. The basic premise is sou d though and i would like to see more on how to spot the people out to con you.

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