This month I wanted to launch into writing a series of articles which will hopefully help those of you who are battling chronic depression. Please don't look for any miracle cures here as I have none to offer. Instead I am going to give you some tools to use in your day to day life to combat the overriding and overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that depression can bring. The theme here is one of Mind, Body, and Spirit.
We humans are highly complex beings with conscious thought, learned patterns of behavior, a body with an intricate biological system of chemicals and wiring, and also what many of us call our soul or spirit. I want to address depression from all these facets of self so that you can have a wide selection of tools and techniques to choose from in your on-going struggle to cope with your depression.
For this post, I wish to begin talking about the mind. You might believe that emotions arise out of nowhere but this is not so accurate. Many people believe that there is an element which precedes our feelings of sadness, joy, anger, or fear. And this element is cognition or our thoughts.
There is a whole branch of therapy devoted to treating mood disorders by helping people to change their ways of thinking and acting which is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. The literature is full of studies which show the effectiveness of CBT for certain populations such as: "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Best for Traumatized Youths"or "Cognitive Behavior Therapy Shown Best for Seasonal Affective Disorder." In addition, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that: Studies of CBT have demonstrated its usefulness for a wide variety of problems, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, and psychotic disorders." So there is a lot of empirical evidence to show that this type of therapy can help those with a wide range of mood and anxiety related disorders.
I am going to give you some examples of cognitive techniques and/or exercises that you can try on your own. However, I will say that a cognitive behavioral therapist can be very helpful in assisting you through the process of changing your thought patterns. If you are interested in this type of therapy I fully encourage you to seek out a qualified CBT therapist to help you along your journey towards emotional wellness.
There are so many cognitive techniques that I don't have the opportunity to list them all here. I will give you several examples and then what I plan to do is to go through more of the exercises with you in detail, one by one, on Fridays, here on My Depression Connection. I do hope you join us
Here are three cognitive restructuring techniques you can use right away:
- Stop Overgeneralizing: "Overgeneralizing" is when you make broad sweeping conclusions based upon one piece of evidence or one incident.
Example: My girlfriend/boyfriend dumped me so I am unlovable. Nobody will ever love me.
Distortion of Thinking: You are basing your entire future of finding love on one event.
What to Think Instead: One person has rejected me this is true. But it doesn't mean that the whole world will reject me. I am still lovable and worthy despite this event. This one event does not predict my future.
- Stop Personalizing: Personalizing is when we interpret everything in our environment including people's moods and reactions as a reflection of us.
Example: I must be a lousy wife because my husband is always grumpy around me.
Distortion of Thinking: "I should be able to control my husband's happiness or mood."
What to think instead: I am not responsible for another's happiness. I cannot control someone's mood. My husband's mood is not a reflection of my self worth.
- Stop Blaming: Blaming is a very common distortion of thinking. It is when you fail to take responsibility for your own actions, words, or life circumstances by saying that it is someone elseâ�™s fault or responsibility.
Example: "I will never find happiness because my family is too dysfunctional and unsupportive."
Distortion of Thinking: You are making the broad sweeping conclusion that people who grow up in dysfunctional families can never be happy.
What to Think Instead: Some of my patterns of learned behavior may come from being immersed in a dysfunctional family. But it doesn't mean I can't change these patterns and make good choices for myself in seeking happiness. It is possible to feel happy despite my past circumstances and upbringing.
Now it is your turn! Do you have any examples from your own life where you have distorted thinking? How have you tried to change your thought patterns? Has anyone here had Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? Did you like the experience? Was it effective for you? Let us know about your experiences. You know we always love to hear from you.