“While the symptoms used to diagnose depression are the same regardless of gender, often the chief complaint can be different among men and women,” says Ian A. Cook, M.D. Read the Blog
Reverand, Susan Gregg-Schroeder writes, “I now know that depression affects all aspects of life, including our spiritual well-being. It strikes at our very soul, making us feel cut off from ourselves, from others, and from our understanding of God.” Read the Blog
Depression blogger, Therese Borchard writes about her recent visit to a holistic health fair and concludes that while holistic doctors and naturopaths offer valuable advice and treatment, it’s only part of a very complicated puzzle of what works for each individual. Read the Blog
There is a zone in a depressed person’s life where nothing seems to happen — except the pain of the absence of everything.
I wish I could explain it so someone could understand it. I’m afraid it’s something I can’t put into words. There’s just this heavy, overwhelming despair – dreading everything. Dreading life. Empty inside, to the point of numbness. It’s like there’s something already dead inside.
Such anguish is so overwhelming that every other concern is squashed in its wake. Our capacity for willful actions seems to be gone; we can’t “figure it out.” We are stuck.
I have learned a lot about the zone over the years and how to handle it. It’s really like surfing a giant wave. To handle these waves, you study them and prepare yourself for when the next big one rolls in.
When I feel I’m entering a Dead Zone, I start a deliberate and kind conversation with myself that is practiced and rehearsed. I don’t let the toxic voice of depression drown me out. It’s important to empower ourselves in whatever ways we can during these times because depression will lead you to falsely conclude that you’re helpless to lift your dark mood. This conclusion is one of the central tenets of depression; one of its main “themes”. We need to create – and we can – different and healthier themes for our lives.
Start with a three-by-five index card. Use it to create your own deliberate and kind script of themes for yourself that day. Here’s is an example of what I had written on one of my cards:
— This depression isn’t forever. It will pass.
— I have handled it in the past. I will handle it now.
— Get out of my head – don’t sit around and ruminate.
I usually write a new card out every morning. When depression is absent (and there are long periods of time when it is), the theme of the card might be more celebratory or grateful:
— I appreciate all of the goodness in my life.
— Thank you God for all of the wonderful people you’ve put in my life.
— I am happy that I am not experiencing depression today.
According to psychologist, Deb Serani, Psy.D, there are both emotional and psychological reasons why this is so:
So, why do these gratitude experiences boost happiness and alleviate depression? Scientists say that these techniques shift our thinking from negative outcomes to positive ones, elicit a surge of feel good hormones like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, and build enduring personal connections.
The insight and reflection of counting these moments is what makes the practice of gratitude so powerful. But the key to combating depression is making these positive experiences part of the fabric of your life.
Try this for a while and see if it helps you. Don’t wait until you are in the zone of depression to construct the cards because your thinking during such times will be distorted.
Doing this is a healthy and self-empowering step that you can take today.
By Daniel T. Lukasik, Esq.
It’s helpful to separate out where your depression is coming from? 5.6 percent of full-time Amercian workers said they were depressed. Is the cause their job, something else or a combination of both? Read the Blog
Blogger Bill Knaus, Ed.D. writes, “When you feel depressed, and don’t know why, you may try to find a cause, such as ‘life sucks,’ which is an overly generalized form of thought. Negative, overgeneralized thinking, classically occurs with depression. Read the Blog
One of the most well-known strategies for dealing with depression is the use of the class of medications know as SSRI’s. For many people, Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and the like have been incredibly helpful in dealing with depression.
Given this, why would a philosopher such as myself have something to say about depression? One reason is that there is another resource which may be helpful in dealing with depression, perhaps in concert with SSRI’s and other forms of treatment. That resource is sound critical thinking, and this is something that I am familiar with as a philosopher.
My claim is not that unsound or illogical thinking is the cause of depression, or that the depressed person is blameworthy for how she thinks, but rather that the thinking that is characteristic of someone suffering from depression is sometimes illogical thinking. Such thinking can perpetuate depression.
In cognitive therapy, an individual can come to recognize these illogical patterns of thought. Then, through a variety of means, she can begin to change those patterns. We all fall into these patterns of thought at times, but for the depressed they are perhaps more severe or exert more power over their lives. But what sorts of patterns of illogical thought are present in depressed thinking?
All or Nothing Thinking
Here, we tend to see black and white where they do not exist.
For example, someone might believe something like this: “Either I’m a total success, or I’m a total failure.” A successful person might lose out on a promotion, and then think that because of this he’s a complete failure. However, this type of thinking commits a logical fallacy, the fallacy of the false dilemma. When committing this fallacy, a person is assuming that only two options exist when there are more than two. So in the promotion example, rather than seeing himself as a failure, he would see himself as someone who is successful, but has suffered a professional setback
Disqualifying the Positive
Consider the depressed student who doesn’t think that anyone likes her. She discusses this with her roommate, who says “I like you, and so does your family and your 3 friends down the hall.” This is evidence that her belief is false, but the depressed person often persists in this thinking by believing that they don’t really like her, or they only like her because they have to, or something along these lines. This type of thinking is an example of the fallacy of suppressed evidence. This fallacy occurs when we overlook or ignore or unjustifiably discount relevant evidence that supports a different conclusion than what we believe.
This is when we believe that our negative feelings about something reflect reality, when they do not. For example, someone feels like they have nothing to offer anyone else, when this is not in fact that case. Feelings are powerful, and important, and they can reflect reality. But when they fail to reflect reality and we believe what they tell us anyway, we commit the fallacy of insufficient evidence. This fallacy occurs when we believe a conclusion even though there is not enough evidence to warrant that belief.
Depressed thinking often includes these types of statements: “I should exercise 3 times this week,” or “I should never feel angry with my children.” This type of self-talk can be harmful and demotivating, and may helpfully be replaced with statements like “It would be good to exercise 3 times this week,” or “It would be nice for my kids if I were more patient with them.” Sometimes, should statements exhibit the fallacy of the false dilemma: “I should exercise 3 times this week or I’m worthless and undisciplined.”
This is a false either-or type of reasoning. At other times, should statements reflect the fallacy of unacceptable premise, which occurs when one accepts a premise that is unwarranted by the evidence. For example, a depressed person might think that “Anyone who feels angry with their kids is a very bad parent and should feel very guilty. Since I sometimes feel angry with my kids, I’m a very bad parent and should feel very guilty.”
The unwarranted and unrealistic premise is that “anyone who feels angry with their kids is a very bad parent and should feel very guilty.” This is not to condone anger or belittle patient love, but it is to point out that feelings of anger are sometimes appropriate, and even when they are not it does not follow that one is a bad parent merely for having such feelings.
There are many issues here worth pursuing. How much can correcting these illogical ways of thinking help the depressed person? How can a depressed person begin to correct this thinking, when it occurs in her mind? I will leave it to the experts in psychology to answer these types of questions, but there is at least good philosophical evidence that sound critical thinking belongs in the toolbox of the person who is dealing with depression, as well as the toolbox of those who are seeking to help such an individual.
Michael W. Austin, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University. Austin has published numerous books and journal articles related to ethics, philosophy of religion, philosophy of the family, and philosophy of sport. He speaks on these and a variety of other topics related to the connections between character and human fulfillment.
A common misconception about depression is that it is something people can just “snap out of.” Unfortunately, for those people who experience major depression disorder, it’s not that simple. While depression can be serious, it is far from hopeless. There are effective treatments and actions people can take to overcome this disorder. There are certain truths about depression that are important to understand; as we target this debilitating disorder that often spans generations.
1) Depression is a more than just a bad mood.
It’s important for friends and relatives of those struggling to understand that people who suffer from depression can’t just feel better. People experiencing a major depression really need professional treatment. Depression is a mind/body issue and should be treated with the same self-compassion and treatment-seeking with which we would treat any major illness. Different forms of therapy and/ or medications work for different people. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), psychotherapy can benefit depressed individuals by helping them uncover the life problems that contribute to their depression, identify the destructive thinking that makes them feel hopeless, explore the behaviors that exacerbate their depression and regain a sense of pleasure in their lives.
2) Depression is affecting younger people.
In what’s been referred to in the field of psychology as “the greening of depression,” younger people are reporting increased levels of stress and depression. According to the Federal Center for Mental Health Services, “depression affects as many as one in every 33 children and one in eight adolescents.” APA’s additionally reported that higher numbers of college students are seeking treatment for depression and anxiety, with the number of students on psychiatric medications increasing by 10 percent in 10 years.
As I highlighted in my recent blog “Depression in Mothers,” babies born to women who struggled with depression while pregnant have “higher levels of stress hormones … as well as other neurological and behavioral differences.” Thus, whether it’s based on biological factors or new social and academic demands, the vulnerability among younger people makes it all the more essential that we target depression earlier and more effectively. Studies have shown promising results to early intervention among school-age children who showcased symptoms of depression.
3) Mindfulness helps with recurrent depression.
There are a lot of great treatments out there that have proven effective for dealing with depression. Research by psychologist Mark Williams, co-author of The Mindful Way Through Depression, has shown that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can have a positive effect on preventing relapse in recovered depressed patients. His research indicates that if you teach people with recurrent depression mindfulness skills, such as meditation and breathing exercises, it reduces their chances of having another depressive episode.
Mindfulness practices don’t change our feelings or thoughts, but they do change our relationship to our feelings and thoughts. This enables a person who has a tendency toward depression to not get swept up in the thoughts and feelings that contribute to his or her depression. Another way mindfulness skills can benefit people struggling with depression is by helping them to be better able to regulate and tolerate emotion.
4) Anger often underlies depression.
Often, one strong emotion behind depression is anger. Anger can be a hard emotion to deal with, but it is actually a natural human reaction to frustration. Getting angry may seem like it would only make you feel worse, but when you don’t deal with anger directly, you tend to turn it on yourself. It is important to allow yourself the freedom to fully feel your feelings, but at the same time, to control yourself from acting them out in any way that is harmful. You can recognize and accept your anger in a healthy way that releases the emotion without allowing it to fester or be turned into an attack on yourself.
5) Depression is fueled by an inner critic.
We all have an inner critic, what my father, psychologist Dr. Robert Firestone, refers to as your “critical inner voice.” For people who are depressed, this critical inner voice can have a powerful and destructive influence on their state of mind. It may be feeding them a distorted commentary on their lives: You are too fat to leave the house. You are so stupid. No one will ever love you. You aren’t capable of being happy. You will never succeed at anything. The critical inner voice may then persuade you to act in destructive ways: Just be by yourself; no one wants to see you. Have another piece of cake; it will make you feel better. You shouldn’t even try for that job; you’ll never get it. Finally, once you’ve listened to its directives, the critical inner voice will attack you for your actions: You are such a loser, staying home alone on a Saturday. You messed up your diet again. What is wrong with you? You’ll never get a decent job. You’re so lazy.
To combat depression means taking on this internal enemy. This may involve looking into your past to help determine where these critical thoughts came from. How do these thoughts affect the actions you take in your life? How can you challenge these “voices” on an action level? On Oct. 8, I will be hosting a free online presentation on “Overcoming the Inner Enemy that Causes Depression,” which further explores how your critical inner voice leads to depression.
6) There are active steps you can take to alleviate depression.
One of the worst symptoms of depression is a feeling of hopelessness. This very feeling can inhibit someone suffering from taking the steps that would help them combat their depression. In my blog “Eight Ways to Actively Fight Depression,” I outline a series of actions people can take to fight depression. These include:
- Recognizing and challenging your critical inner voice
- Identifying and feeling your anger
- Engaging in aerobic activity
- Putting yourself in social or non-isolated situations
- Doing activities you once enjoyed, even when you don’t feel like it
- Watching a funny movie or show
- Refusing to punish yourself for feeling bad
- Seeing a therapist
For people struggling with depression, it’s important to have compassion for yourself and to take actions to overcome this state, including seeking help. Remember that no matter what your critical inner voice may be telling you, the situation is far from hopeless. There is good help available and many active ways to treat your condition. For more help or information visit the National Institute of Mental Health.
Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, author, and the Director of Research and Education for the Glendon Association. She studies suicide and violence as well as couples and family relations. She is the co-author (with Robert Firestone and Joyce Catlett) of Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice, Creating a Life of Meaning and Compassion, and Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships.
Jennifer Tazzi writes, “The most recent depression held an element of ‘here we go again.’ When I am depression-free, and despite my best intentions, I’m lulled into a false sense of security about the likelihood of another depression occurring.” Read the Blog
According to one expert, it’s time to seek treatment when your depression is moderate, and makes it difficult to function on a daily basis. Read the Blog