Depression is the second emotion we are looking at in our series on Emotions, there are eight altogether along with their “healthy counterparts” that are identified in the Ellis Model of RECBT.
Depression (an unhealthy negative emotion) is mostly provoked by holding unhealthy beliefs or attitudes (Demands) about loss or failure.
Its healthy counterpart is Sadness and occurs when we hold a healthy belief or attitude about loss or failure.
Depression is an unhealthy negative emotion and we can be depressed about many things. Some examples are:
- Loss or failure of job
- Loss or failure of relationship
- Loss of freedom
- Loss of control
- Failure of success
How do you know if you are depressed or sad?
Depression is experienced by many people in a life time usually in reaction to external circumstances and it has a distinctive thought and behaviour pattern that we can identify. When you feel depressed your thoughts become preoccupied with negative experiences and are unable to find the good or positive about anything in life. Thoughts have a historical focus with a tendency to remember old past losses or failures and rumination becomes more and more part of your thought processes. If you are experiencing Depression you tend think you are a failure as a person and that in the future there is no hope so a pervading sense of helplessness and hopelessness is experienced.
When you are depressed you feel like avoiding the world and the people in it, withdrawing into your head rather than going out; you pull away from people and life in general. You may not feel like getting out of bed or going to work or meeting your friends. Looking after yourself or your surroundings becomes unimportant. When you are feeling depressed you are not interested in looking after yourself and, in severe depression, not bothering to wash or get dressed. You don’t feel like washing up or hoovering, tidying may become a thing of the past.
When you are depressed you have a tendency to behave in destructive ways to try and avoid the feeling of depression. It can lead to over eating or under eating, using alcohol or drugs to excess to avoid those feelings.
The thoughts experienced when feeing sadness, in contrast to depression, are more balanced. You are able to think about both positive and negative aspects of the loss or failure. When you are experiencing sadness your thoughts do not remain focused in the past and previous failures instead you think that you will be able to deal with the current loss appropriately. The thoughts of helplessness and beliefs that you are failure are not present in sadness. Your thoughts are helpful and hopeful.
When you are sad you will tend to share your feelings and express what is happening to those around you. You remain able to look after yourself and your environment recognising you have experienced a loss or failure and take constructive and helpful actions to support yourself through the experience.
If you recognise the thoughts and behavioural patterns of depression consider the changes that would support experiencing healthy sadness and begin to think and act in accordance with them. For example, if you are thinking everything is hopeless, recognise you are thinking this and you can begin to challenge that thought as you check reality and begin to recognise not everything is hopeless and continue to challenge your thoughts consistently, even if you don’t feel like it. If getting out of bed and getting out of the house is your problem set yourself small achievable goals, like getting out of bed and taking a shower, eat something healthy, and do them consistently.
It will feel uncomfortable to start with but each day it gets easier, just as the same as when you learnt how to ride a bicycle, tie your shoes or make eggs for the first time.
1) Make some goals
2) Identify and take some immediate action to make your goals happen.
3) Identify the regular actions to make the goals happen and do them.
4) Stop telling yourself you are “Rubbish or the world is”
5) Remember “you matter” and you are part of the human race which is fallible and chemically amazing at the same time.
6) We generally think ourselves into misery, begin to change the way you think – unhealthy thoughts are normally rigid/illogical/inconsistent with reality and unhelpful healthy thoughts are – flexible, logical, consistent with reality and helpful
7) Seek help if you continue to feel miserable.