Depression and Twisted Thinking
Life can be extremely challenging at times but it’s important to recognise that it’s not events and situations per se that cause depression – it’s the way we think about them. Depressed people unwittingly misinterpret and think incorrectly about things that happen in their lives, they mistake their thoughts for the truth. Most thoughts are not extreme, just distorted enough to make them unhappy. For example, if a person’s relationship has broken down, he or she may think “I’ll never find anyone else, I’ll never be happy again” rather than “this really hurts at the moment”. This kind of twisted thinking can start to pervade all their thoughts and eventually they feel quite hopeless and helpless.
Twisted thinking falls into common patterns and sometimes just being able to recognise certain patterns in our thoughts can be enough to help us to start to shift them. Some common ones are:
1. All-or-nothing thinking: We look at things in absolute, black-and-white categories.
2. Overgeneralisation: We view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. “It will ALWAYS be like this.”
3. Mental filter: We dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives.
4. Discounting the positives: We insist that our accomplishments or positive qualities don’t count
5. Jumping to conclusions: We conclude things are bad without any definite evidence. These include mind-reading (assuming that people are reacting negatively to us) and fortune-telling (predicting that things will turn out badly).
6. Magnification or minimisation: We blow things way out of proportion or we shrink their importance.
7. Emotional reasoning: We reason from how we feel: “I feel like an idiot, so I must be one.”
8. “Should” statements: We criticise ourselves or other people with “shoulds,” “shouldn’ts,” “musts,” “oughts,” and “have-tos.”
9. Labelling: Instead of saying, “I made a mistake,” we tell ourselves “I’m a complete loser”.
10. Blame: We blame ourselves for something we weren’t entirely responsible for, or we blame other people and overlook ways that we contributed to a problem.
Jon Cousins, founder of the online mental health support website Moodscope https://www.moodscope.com/ has written an excellent guide to depression and twisted thinking, available as a free download that I always recommend to my clients:
Need some more advice and support?
If you are feeling low or depressed and would like to talk it over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!