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.
- 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.
- Overgeneralization – Taking isolated cases and using them to make wide generalizations. Generalization from one detail , or aspect of a situation, to the whole situation.
- Mental filter – Focusing almost exclusively on negative or upsetting aspects of an event while ignoring other positive aspects.
- Disqualifying the positive – Continually deemphasizing positive experiences.
- 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”.
- 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.
- Emotional reasoning – Accept your emotions as a valid evidence. “I feel therfore it is true”. If you feel stupid , than you are stupid.
- 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.
- 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.
- Personalization – Attribution of personal responsibility and guilt to yourself for events over which you have no control.
- 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.