Cognitive Distortions of Depression

Depression contributes, and is maintained by common distorted thought patterns. It is a vicious circle, which keep us depressed.

This checklist is taken from the Wikipedia, “Feeling Good” book  and other sources, with some changes and additions. As you go through this list try to  identify these patterns that you tend to use. It may be an  eye opener: You will realize that what sounded like “the reality”,  is indeed very subjective. This is the first step to start controlling those thought patterns, and influence your mood. You may want to keep track of these thought patterns in a journal.

  1. Black and white thinking – No shades of grey. Thinking of things in absolute terms, like “always”, “every”, “never”.     If it is not perfect, it is a failure.
  2. Overgeneralization – Taking isolated cases and using them to make wide generalizations. Generalization from one detail , or aspect of a situation, to the whole situation.
  3. Mental filter – Focusing almost exclusively on  negative or upsetting aspects of an event while ignoring other positive aspects.
  4. Disqualifying the positive – Continually deemphasizing  positive experiences.
  5. Jumping to conclusions – Drawing negative conclusions  from little  evidence. Two specific subtypes:
    • Mind reading – Assuming you can read the feelings and thoughts of others. You know for sure what other people think of you, and of course is it negative.
    • Future reading –  Catastrophizing.  You expect the worst possible outcome, however unlikely. You ruminate about “What if”.
  6. Magnification and minimization – Distorting aspects of a memory or situation through magnifying or minimizing them such that they no longer correspond to objective reality.  If you are depressed, often the positive characteristics of other people are exaggerated and negative characteristics are understated. The reverse  happens when you think about yourself.
  7. Emotional reasoning – Accept your emotions as a valid evidence.  “I feel therfore it is true”. If you feel stupid , than you are  stupid.
  8. Should statements – You know the way things “should” be.  You have rigid rules which  always apply, no matter what the circumstances are. Using “should” statement  leaves you and others feeling preasured, guilty, and on the long run  jeopardizes any motivation for change. It does not allow you to be flexible and adapt to  changing circumstances.
  9. Labeling –  Rather than describing  a  specific behavior, you assign a negative  label to yourself.  it is not the action that was a mistake, you are the mistake. Frequntly, you judge others as harshly as you judge yourself.
  10. Personalization – Attribution of personal responsibility and guilt to yourself   for events over which you have no control.
  11. False expectations: Assuming that other people should be able to read your mind, without any need of your part to express your emotions and needs.  Assuming that your happiness depends on somebody else.

© Wikipedia
A depressed person

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Humor and Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy does not have to always be  a serious endeavor. Sometimes  laughter can be more effective than tears. Loretta Laroche is a clinical psychologist, and a stand up comedian; an unusual combination. Her CD’s and DVD’s teach the basics of cognitive behavioral therapy and existential therapy through a humorous examination of her own life. Very uplifting, lots of common sense, gives a great perspective on life. An effective audio antidepressant.

How to Be A Wild, Wise, and Witty Woman 4-CD: Making the Most Out of Life Before You Run Out of It

Life Is Short, Wear Your Party Pants

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Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) was initially developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan for people who suffered from personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder.  DBT is not about insight, or delving into your past. It is a collection of very practical skills to help you better manage your emotions, your interpersonal relationships, and hence your life. The basis of all these skills is the practice of mindfulness, taken from Buddhism. Mindfulness means the state of mind that allow you to be completely immersed in the present situation, rather than in the past or in fantasy. None of these skills are innovative; but sometimes, while contending with life’s difficulties we need to be reminded of skills that may seem obvious or almost trivial.

Many types of therapy claim that our mental health is best served by getting in touch and experiencing our emotions to the fullest. While this approach is often effective and serves many people well, DBT takes an alternative approach. DBT tries to teach us to regulate our emotions in order to better cope with everyday life. I find this approach very helpful for people that struggle with clinical depression, anxiety, panic attacks, or even people who struggle with anger management issues,  and struggle to go through the day. Only after the depression and anxiety get somewhat under control, a person would have enough energy and inner resources to delve in  and benefit from insight oriented therapy.

In my opinion, these skills are useful for everyone of us. The following link will provide you with handouts. The best way to learn these skills would be in a therapeutic group or in individual therapy.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy .

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