Sunday, June 20, 2010

Therapy and Depression Part One

“Depression affects approximately 15 million American adults, or about 7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year” Archives of General Psychiatry
We all feel sad and down from time to time. But how do we know when our sadness is more than just a normal reaction to life’s stressors? The answer depends on the following:

1. How long have your symptoms been present?
2. Are you feeling hopeless or helpless?
3. Are you not participating in things you used to enjoy to do?
4. Are you having trouble falling and/or staying asleep, or sleeping too much?
5. Are you feeling tired all the time?
6. Are you having a hard time focusing or concentrating?
7. Are you experiencing recurrent thoughts of death or suicide?

Depression can encapsulate us negativity, contaminating our thoughts, behaviors, moods and environment. Depression is like a black cloud that follows us around not allowing us to see the light. Depression only encourages us to think and act in ways that encourage further despair. Here are some common ways depression can affect our thinking and perpetuate our sadness:

You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.

You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or another. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
Mind Reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don't bother to check this out.
The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact.

You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement) or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow's imperfections). This is also called the "binocular trick."

You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."

You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn'ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. "Musts" and "ought to’s" are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: "He's a goddam louse." Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

From Feeling Good, by David D. Burns, M.D.

How can a therapist help alleviate your depressed mood? Check out my blog post, Therapy and Depression Part Two next week. In the mean time, feel free to take the depression health check at WebMD
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
· Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 21, 2009

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