Depression Self Help

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Depression self help is something that I have turned to when basic stress management techniques failed. Sometimes it is difficult to spot depression warning signs, or it is tempting to explain them away as tiredness or just general stress.

I will discuss Dr. David Burn's amazing book in a moment, but if you have a suspicion that you may be depressed, then take his online checklist of depression warning signs as a first step in your attempts at depression self help. The form that you fill in is actually taken from the above book, which was recommended to me and which I can highly recommend in turn.

Firstly it is necessary to understand how important Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is to the treatment of depression and to depression self help.

In the United Kingdom for example, the British Government have invested millions in training new CBT therapists, for the simple reason that, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists Royal College of Psychiatrists, CBT is:

" of the most effective treatments for conditions where anxiety or depression is the main problem. It is the most effective psychological treatment for moderate and severe depression (and) it is as effective as effective as anti-depressants for many types of depression"

How CBT Works

Essentially, CBT can be used as effective depression self help, because works on the basis of analyzing your thoughts and helps you to understanding the concept of thinking distortions. I want to reproduce the basic list from the book, just to give you a flavor of how the process works.

If you have not come across this list before, then do the following little depression self help experiment.

Take one negative thought you have about yourself and then write it down on a piece of paper. Then next to it, write down how true this thought feels to you now. Write this as a percentage (where 100% means that this thought feels absolutely true to you and 50% means that you only believe it to an extent)

Then read the following list and make a note of which of the ten thinking distortions you think apply to this particular thought:

1. All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

2. Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

3. Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.

4. Disqualifying the positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

5.Jumping to conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.

o Mind reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and don't bother to check it out.

o The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly and feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.

6. Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow's imperfections). This is also called the "binocular trick."

7. Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."

8. 'Should' statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn'ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. "Musts" and "oughts" are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

9. Labeling and mislabeling: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, "He's a damn louse." Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

10. Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible.

Now the depression self help element of CBT kicks in: you should have your original negative thought and your rating of how real that thought seems to you. You should also now have a list of which thinking distortions seem to apply to that thought. Finally, try to write a more realistic and positive thought to replace the negative one. Then rate how much you believe the new, positive thought to be true.

How do you feel now? I never fail to be amazed at how quickly I can turn my negative thoughts into positives, using this technique.


Obviously you are the only person who can decide if depression self help is right for you or if you would rather see a trained professional.

My only advice would be that you may want to experiment with books or online resources (see the Royal Society of Psychiatrists link above) whilst you wait for an appointment. Certainly in the UK, it can take a number of months to move up the waiting lists.

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