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Which came first, the depression or the pessimistic thoughts? The answer may surprise you. In many cases, depression actually is the result of habitual negative thoughts. When bad things happen, we begin chastising ourselves with thoughts such as: “I’m no good, I’m a total failure” or “Nothing ever goes my way”, or “I’m fat, stupid, lazy”, etc. Our feelings constantly follow what we are thinking, and negative thoughts like these can send us spiralling down into anxiety and depression. Your thoughts are your world, they create a blueprint for how things will turn out for you in your life.
Which category do you slot into? Are you like Rhonda, or maybe like Donna? Look at your “self-talk”, you may be too hard on yourself or maybe have an unreasonably high expectation of yourself and others.
We are all guilty of this – because we are all human beings. Adrenally fatigued people often experience depression, anxiety and general feelings of unhappiness at some stage.
If we think something often enough, we begin to believe it’s true and our feelings match what we are thinking about ourselves. To conquer depression, we must stop those automatic negative thoughts and replace them with more positive, truthful ones. By nipping these thoughts in the bud, we can halt depression before it even starts.
See if you recognise yourself in any of these 10 common cognitive distortions or faulty thought patterns, that send us into depression.
1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
John recently applied for a promotion in his firm. The job went to another employee with more experience. John wanted this job badly and now feels that he will never be promoted. He feels that he is a total failure in his career. He thinks it is all over for him and he will never get an opportunity like this again. Of course he won’t, this is what he is projecting to others.
Linda is lonely and often spends most of her time at home. Her friends sometimes ask her to come out for dinner and meet new people. Linda feels that that is it useless to try to meet people. No one really could like her. “People are all mean and superficial anyway”.
3. Mental Filter
Mary is having a bad day. As she drives home, a kind gentleman waves her to go ahead of him as she merges into traffic. Later in her trip, another driver cuts her off. She grumbles to herself that “there are nothing but rude and insensitive people in my city”.
4. Disqualifying the Positive
Rhonda just had her portrait made. Her friend tells her how beautiful she looks. Rhonda brushes aside the compliment by saying that the photographer must have touched up the picture. “I never look that good in real life, I look old and wrinkly”, she thinks.
5. Jumping to Conclusions
Geoff is waiting for his date at a restaurant. She’s now 20 minutes late. Geoff laments to himself that he must have done something wrong and now she has stood him up. Meanwhile, across town, his date is stuck in traffic. “what a terrible person she has stood me up” thinks Geoff
6. Magnification and Minimisation
Scott is playing rugby. He bungles a move that he’s been practicing for weeks. He later scores the winning try. His teammates compliment him. He tells them he should have played better; the try was just pure “dumb luck”.
7. Emotional Reasoning
Laura looks around her untidy house and feels overwhelmed by the prospect of cleaning. She feels that it’s hopeless to even try to clean. “why bother, tomorrow afternoon the kids will mess it up anyway”
8. Should Statements
David is sitting in his doctor’s waiting room. His doctor is running late. David sits stewing, thinking, “With how much I’m paying him, he should be on time. He ought to have more consideration.” He ends up feeling bitter and resentful.
9. Labeling and Mislabeling
Donna just cheated on her diet. “I’m just a fat, lazy pig”, she thinks.
Jean’s son is doing poorly in school. She feels that she must be a bad mother. She feels that it’s all her fault that he isn’t studying.
If you recognise any of these behaviours in yourself, then you’re halfway there. Here’s a homework assignment for you: Over the next few weeks, monitor the self-defeating ways in which you respond to situations. Practice recognising your automatic responses. Next article we focus on we will take each of the above cognitive distortions and discuss some powerful coping strategies that will help you dispel the blues before they even start.