Depression has many causes. Sometimes depression is organic and can be treated with medication. Sometimes depression is situational, meaning it is caused by the way we organize our thoughts or feelings about situations in our lives. Sometimes it is both situational and organic.
Situational depression can be treated by working to reorganize our thinking patterns through a method known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Often clients suffering from depression can benefit from both medication and CBT.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Often, those who suffer from situational depression follow a specific type of thinking pattern in which they perceive their situations as extremes—everything is black or white, amazing or terrible, with no intermediate levels of gray or so-so. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps people learn to avoid such “all or nothing” thoughts.
Clients suffering from depression tend to see things as all dark on bad days and all light when times are good. This black-and-white thinking pattern sets up the brain for mood extremes, which make emotional balance difficult. Because black-and-white thinking leads us to believe that good and bad cannot coexist, it keeps us from enjoying the everyday situations that are neither amazing nor terrible. Realizing that there is good and bad in almost every situation can open up our minds to perceive the positive aspects to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
The ancient Chinese symbol Taijitu, better known as the yin-yang symbol, illustrates that opposites can interact and achieve harmony. Taijitu is symbolic of life, because everything in life contains both shadow and light, just as the white portion of the symbol contains a circle of black and the black portion contains a circle of white. Neither color in the symbol is complete without the other, but together they illustrate complete harmony. Only by recognizing both the black and the white in our lives can we find emotional stability.
Understanding that things are rarely all black or all white requires maturity. While a baby’s moods are very simple—I am happy or I am not happy and I am hungry or I am not hungry—mature thinking requires seeing complexities. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, therapists help clients see how black-and-white thinking harms them and creates mood extremes. Distressing events can be explained better in percentages or degrees rather than in terms of all good or all bad.
Clients are advised to delete key words in their descriptions like never, always, and must. Avoiding these words helps us avoid catastrophizing a situation. We then are able to see solutions instead of only problems. For example, a woman who has been physically abused may feel inclined to say to herself, “My abuse was the worst possible thing that could ever happen. I must never be abused again. I won’t survive it again, so I must always avoid every possible situation that could lead me there.”
This pattern of thinking creates a victim mentality and keeps us from moving beyond the problem toward a solution. To find solutions rather than justification for her way of thinking, the woman could reframe her response to her abuse in the following way: “I am a survivor of abuse. It was a painful experience, but I have grown and learned from my experience. I am skilled in self-defense now, and if a situation like that comes up again, I am prepared.”
Harmony and Peace
Life is a balance of good and bad, of shadow and light. We are healthier if we seek for integration—if we learn to accept the positive with the negative. Most of us are filled with both positive and negative traits and experiences. When we balance our strengths with our weaknesses, we find harmony and peace in ourselves and with others. We find the “yin and yang” of life.
Check out another one of my posts on depression: https://utahmentalhealthservices.com/black-and-white-thinking-leads-to-depression/
Black And White Thinking Leads To Depression
Black and white thinking leads to depression
In my practice I find clients who suffer from depression tend to see things as all dark on bad days and all light when times are good. This black-and-white thinking pattern sets up the brain for mood extremes, which make emotional balance difficult. Because black-and-white thinking leads us to believe that good and bad cannot coexist, it keeps us from enjoying the everyday situations that are neither amazing nor terrible.
Realizing that there is good and bad in almost every situation can open up our minds. We then perceive the positive aspects to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in; we have balanced thinking. The true story of a young World War II prisoner illustrates finding the good in an obviously bad situation.
The Best Gift Ever
A young American boy named John was interred with his family in a Japanese prison camp during World War II. The living arrangements kept the men and woman in separate barracks, and as an underage boy, John was assigned to live with his mother.
One night when John was visiting his father’s barracks, he realized he was past curfew. He was terrified. The Japanese guards were well known for their cruel punishments of disobedience. With his heart racing in fear, John hurried back to his mother’s barracks, hoping to arrive before his absence was noted. As John headed down the hall, he saw a guard coming towards him. John froze. He saw the guard reach for his side and expected to be sliced with a bayonet. Instead, the guard reached into his pocket and pulled out a yo-yo, which he held out to John.
In surprise, John took it. Once safely with his mother, John began to play with his new toy. Previously, he had had no form of entertainment and had struggled to keep his mind off his constant hunger pains. But now his days were filled with interest and fun. John played with his yo-yo constantly and became quite skilled at it. Years later as John recounted the story; his eyes would fill with tears. He realized the yo-yo was the best present he had ever received.
He explained that over the years, he had thought about the guard many times. He realized that although the guards were capable of harsh punishment and cruelty, they had another side—they were neither all good nor all bad. Understanding that things are rarely all black or all white requires maturity. While a child’s moods are very simple—I am happy or I am not happy and I am hungry or I am not hungry—mature thinking requires seeing complexities.
Avoid absolute thinking patterns
Distressing events can be explained better in percentages or degrees rather than in terms of all good or all bad. For example, a person who was been physically abused as a child may feel inclined to say, “My abuse was the worst possible thing that could ever happen. I must never be abused again. I won’t survive it again, so I must always avoid every possible situation that could lead me there.”
Focusing On Solutions
This pattern of thinking creates a victim mentality and keeps her from moving beyond the problem toward a solution. To find solutions rather than justification for her way of thinking, the person could reframe their response regarding the abuse in the following way: “I am a survivor of abuse. It was a painful experience, but I have grown and learned from my experience. I am skilled in self-defense now, and if a situation like that comes up again, I am prepared.”
Life is a balance of good and bad, of shadow and light. We are healthier if we seek for integration—if we learn to accept the positive with the negative. Most of us are filled with both positive and negative traits and experiences. When we balance our strengths with our weaknesses, we find harmony and peace in ourselves and with others. We find the “yin and yang” of life. We are better able to battle depression.
See also my post on cognitive behavior therapy: http://www.utahmentalhealthservices.com/therapy/cognitive-therapy/
Another helpful post on depression: http://www.utahmentalhealthservices.com/give-yourself-a-present-by-living-in-the-present-how-staying-in-the-here-and-now-moment-frees-you-from-anxiety-and-depression/
Avoid Depression And Anxiety—Don’t Believe Everything You Think!
“People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them”- Epictetus AD 55 – AD135
If I think something it must be true
Unfortunately many people believe that if their brain thinks something it must be factual. But there are many different ways to see the same situation and depending on the viewpoint we take, we can determine our mood.
For example one boy is told he will be given a gift and is taken to a room filled with manure. The boy says, “Well this is the kind of gift, I would get—life always treats me unfairly,” and he walks away in disgust. Another boy is told the same information and taken to the same room. Only this lad squeals with delight and says, “Hand me a shovel, with this much manure, there must be a pony here somewhere!”
Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?
An identical event triggers two different responses depending on the view taken by the participant. Do you sometimes perceive events in a way similar to the boy who felt life treated him unfairly? If so you may see life’s events through a negative filter; you may be guilty of thinking errors.
To avoid depression and anxiety, we can benefit from occasional reviewing thinking errors to see if our perceptions are distorted. Laura Brown, LCSW, summarized her thoughts on thinking errors.
Common Thinking Errors
- All or Nothing Thinking: A situation or person is either all good or all bad. Things are black or white. For example if your performance falls short of perfection, you see yourself as a total failure. For more on black and white thinking, see my blog post: http://www.utahmentalhealthservices.com/concerns/depression/
- Overgeneralization: A single negative event is viewed as a never- ending pattern of defeat. Key words use are always, all the time, never when describing your and others’ behavior.
- Mental Filter: One single negative detail becomes overwhelming. Reality is distorted and you dwell on the event exclusively. It is like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
- Disqualifying the Positive: Experiences are rejected because of the belief 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.
- Jumping to Conclusions: A negative interpretation is made 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 out the facts.
- Fortune Telling: You anticipate that things will turn out badly and you are convinced that your prediction is an already established fact.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches:
Feelings are indicators of our emotions but sometimes our thinking is distorted
Often distressed feelings are a signal your thinking may be distorted. Begin noticing and analyzing your thoughts. Likely you will see some errors in your thinking or perceptions. If you have thinking errors or if life always seems to be a roomful of manure, you likely struggle with anger management, depression or anxiety. You may benefit by contacting a local therapist.
(A good example of not believing everything you think is the 2001 movie “A Beautiful Mind” directed by Ron Howard. It is a biographical drama based on the true story of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics who struggles with mental illness. Nash has to learn how to cope and not believe everything his brain tells him.) http://www.abeautifulmind.com/.
Camille Curtis Foster/ 801.472.7134/ email@example.com
Check out another one of my posts concerning depression and anxiety:
Check out my post on anxiety: http://www.utahmentalhealthservices.com/concerns/anxiety/
Another post for good mental health habits:
Sources: Laura Brown, LCSW http://whatwouldlaurasay.blogspot.com/2010/06/have-you-ever-heard-of-thinking-error.html Image from https://www.facebook.com/sungazing1
Depress Your Depression: Fight Seasonal Depression (SAD)
End of October
The sleepy brown woods seem to
Nod down their heads to the Winter
Yellows and grays paint the sad skies
And I wonder when you’re comin home.
As Dan Fogleberg sings, we all miss the good ole summer time. But if shorterdaylight hours brings you sad skies and miss your old self (wondering when you’re comin home), you may suffer from seasonal depression disorder (SAD).
SAD is a mood disorder causing depression in people during winter months. Symptoms include energy loss, weight gain or loss; sleep disruption and a general case of the blues.
Here are some ways you can cope
Get enough sleep
The emotional part of the brain (amygdala) is more active when you are deprived of sleep. (Walker M. 2007) When the amygdala is activated it is harder to handle your emotions logically and events become distorted. To insure your best sleep, follow these guidelines.
- · Get up if you have been awake for more than 20 min
- · Count, there is no emotion with numbers and it calms your brain
- · Only use bedroom only for sleep, no other activities
- · Limit electronics 60 minutes prior to bedtime
- · Keep a cool temperature in room
- · No clock visible, no TV
- · Keep a list of concerns in a notebook, outside of the bedroom
- · Make sure pets are in their place
- · AVOID caffeine and alcohol
- · Overcome the stress that comes with repeated and unsuccessful attempts to sleep—the more anxious you get the harder it is to sleep
Many animals take a long winter’s nap. We may be genetically predisposed to slow down with crops harvested and cooler temperatures but resists the urge to hibernate!
Try the 9 Healthy Habits from Michele Okum
- · Giving: Do things for others
- · Relating: Connect with people
- · Exercising: Take care of your body
- · Appreciating: Notice the world around
- · Trying out: Keep learning new things
- · Direction: Have goals to look forward to
- · Resilience: Find ways to bounce back
- · Emotion: Find a positive approach
- · Acceptance: Be comfortable with who you are
- · Meaning: Be part of something bigger than yourself
Exposure to specific wavelengths or daylight improves your frame of mind. It regulates circadian disturbances, which are known to impact mood. It is common for people suffering from depression to have irregular circadian rhythms. A “blue light” can be purchased for a reasonable price. Another alternative would be to take a brisk walk outside.
The dictionary defines depress as: sad or gloomy; lower in spirits; deject, dispirit. But another meaning for depress is: to lower in force, vigor, weaken, or make dull.
So if you have seasonal depression you may need to check out an anti depressant with your doctor and work with a therapist but you can also weaken or lower your depression “with a change in life style— “depress your depression” and raise your self esteem.
Camille Curtis Foster, MSW, LCSW
Contact Me |Provo Counseling Center/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Please “Like” my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/UtahMentalHealthServices
Lyrics from Dan Fogleberg- Old Tennessee
Research seminar present by Michele Okum, Ph.D. Department of Psychology, University of Colorado. Sponsored by the Institute for Brain Potential.
Is Suicide A Selfish Choice? What We Can Gain From The Death Of Robin Williams
A Guest Editorial from Calliope Scott
As someone who has struggled since age 10 with suicidal ideation and behaviors, I know that it’s dang hard in those painful, desperate moments to remember there is hope, or that there are people who care about me. I’ve been revived in the ER or held in ICU on a mandatory hold many times. I have children now, and I live in fear that I will be a statistic, and so will they. Please take time to understand the nature of not only bipolar disorder and depression but addiction and the changes to the dopaminergic system in the brain as well; oftentimes there is more to suicide than just having or not having ‘mental strength’.
Proper help is hard to find, even with all of the money in the world, because there is much about the brain we still do not understand. Medications can help some, but have you read the side effects? Main complaint is increased depression and suicidal thoughts. I know that oftentimes when I feel miserable, worthless, and hopeless, I am afraid to go talk to a professional about it because I worry that DHS will try to say I am unstable and not fit to be around my children, which I know is not true, but when I am in that state, logic sometimes fails me.
I worry that because my university has a rule about suicide attempts/threats I will be kicked out for having these thoughts and not being able to control them. Many who suffer silently are afraid to seek help, because there is an attitude toward people who struggle with depression and other mental ailments that they, for some reason, are just weak minded and could ‘get over it’ if they put their mind to it. Many turn to substances as a way to escape (however temporary it is) the symptoms. Over time there is a complete loss of control, and those individuals can spend a lifetime trying to regain it.
I spent 16 years of my life seeking an alternate reality because being drunk and high felt much better to my soul than living in my true reality. I’ve lost many friends and even a few family members to suicide and unintentional drug overdose, so I must say I am quite emotionally invested in suicide prevention programs and outreach. I got into my fields of study because I want to see real change.
If you have friends who struggle with addiction or mental illness, encourage them to talk about it. If you can’t do so without judgment or coming from a place of love and understanding, try to get to that place. There are resources to help friends and loved ones understand how to be there for someone who is struggling. If you can’t find them, I can help you. C.S.
(Note from Camille)
If you are anyone you know expresses hopelessness or shows depression warning signs please reach out to a professional counselor, hot line or local hospital. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. A great link:
Camille Curtis Foster, LCSW
Contact Me/ Provo Counseling Center/ email@example.com/ 801.472.7134