Treating depression takes a long time, as it requires various long-standing patterns to be changed.
Lets begin at the level of your moment-to-moment thoughts; a vicious circle often develops, where as a result of low mood your style of thinking will automatically tend towards negativity and over-generalisation. These thoughts will maintain or exacerbate your already low mood. So you need to learn how to identify your negative automatic thoughts, and practice challenging them when they occur. Lets look at an example:
Imagine something goes wrong during your day, and you think to yourself “I always make mistakes, I’ll never be successful”, which obviously makes you feel low. Those two words, ‘always’ and ‘never’, are examples of over-generalisation, so those thoughts would be more helpful if they were more specific, like this – “I’m making a few mistakes at the moment, I wonder what needs to change so I can solve this?” – such a re-framing might help you feel a bit better about your situation. You may have picked up certain unhelpful styles of thinking which are holding you back, which you could benefit by altering; or some of your beliefs about yourself may need adjusting to be more adaptive.
Moving on to the level of behaviour, depressed people often find the pleasure they feel from their normal activities becomes diminished, and so you end up doing less and less, getting less pleasure and less sense of achievement. Part of the treatment thus involves increasing the number of activities you are doing, building up a range of things which might be rewarding or pleasurable. Depressed people often become accustomed to procrastinating however, you may find ways to delay or avoid activity. So you might need to evaluate some of the things you’re saying to yourself whenever you put-off doing things.
Depression itself causes some problematic ideas about the likelihood of successful change – two very common thinking styles are helplessness – e.g. – “I can’t do anything to solve these problems” and
hopelessness – e.g. – “what’s the point in trying, nothing will change?”
Next time we will continue with more issues in the treatment of depression.