While the most obvious symptom of depression is a sad mood, this might not even be present – instead, the person could find they lose pleasure or satisfaction from activities they used to enjoy, or they might start abusing substances or indulging in other addictive behaviors.
A key feature of depression to look out for is a change in the way a person thinks, feels or acts. For example, someone could find they are eating much less or more than usual; or cry all the time or not be able to cry when it’s appropriate; or sleep excessively or hardly at all.
In addition, people who are depressed often view themselves in a negative light, being self-critical or feeling worthless.
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we focus on patients’ thought patterns and how they interpret and talk to themselves about situations. Research by the American National Institute of Mental Health indicates that depressed people interpret many situations incorrectly. How a person thinks about what is happening affects how he feels. It follows, therefore, that a depressed person can learn to identify and change errors in their thinking.
Depressed people have constant unpleasant thoughts, and depression increases in proportion to the negative thoughts. Examples of negative thoughts are:
- Having a negative opinion of yourself, self-blame or self-criticism
- Interpreting events in a negative way
- Having negative expectations of outcomes and the future
- Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities
In addition, we need to address errors in thinking. These include:
- Over-generalizing (eg, making broad statements emphasising the negatives, such as ‘no one likes me’)
- Exaggerating (eg, seeing a simple obstacle as a sign of disaster)
- Ignoring the positive and seeing only the negative aspects
With a psychologist’s encouragement, patients can recognise their own negative thoughts, evaluate their validity and correct them by substituting more realistic thoughts. Our psychologists will also help you find ways to deal more effectively with real day-to-day problems. You will learn skills to help you feel better and to respond more positively when you encounter future difficulties.