Pitfalls of Thinking That Lead to Depression

Reviewed May 15, 2017

Close

E-mail Article

Complete form to e-mail article…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

Separate multiple recipients with a comma

Close

Sign-Up For Newsletters

Complete this form to sign-up for newsletters…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

 

Summary

Identify unrealistic thoughts that depress you, and learn to think more realistically.

If you’ve ever imagined a tragedy or loss in your life, you know the power of your thoughts over your mood. Thinking sad thoughts can make you feel sad.

If you’ve ever had clinical depression, you also know how a low mood can produce negative thoughts. Feeling sad can make you think sad thoughts.

Don’t waste a minute thinking which comes first—thoughts or feelings. If you are depressed, you want to feel better.

If you think you are experiencing more than a fleeting case of the blues, visit your doctor or a mental health professional for proper diagnosis. One method of coping with depression is to take a look at the thoughts that maintain your low mood. One way to improve that mood, according to David Burns, MD, is to identify unrealistic thoughts that depress you, and learn to think more realistically.

Not every thought is true

Dr. Burns’ is built on the claims of cognitive psychology, that irrational thinking underlies most psychological problems. He breaks it down into “ABCs”:

  • A = actual event, such as being reprimanded at work by your boss
  • B = beliefs you have about yourself and life, such as “I’m so inadequate”
  • C = consequences of your beliefs, such as feeling depressed and angry at yourself

Are you willing to apply this ABC process to your own experiences? Be prepared for the most difficult part of the equation—accepting that your beliefs that cause you such grief are likely not true.

Sorting through irrational thoughts

New Jersey-based psychologist Donald J. Franklin, PhD, suggests enlisting the help of a cognitive therapist if you find it difficult to identify which of your beliefs is irrational. A cognitive therapist might use terms similar to those Dr. Burns uses in his book, The Feeling Good Handbook, to describe several kinds of faulty thought patterns, or cognitive distortions, that depress you. The next time you feel depressed, try to write down everything running through your mind. See whether your thoughts resemble these cognitive distortions:

1. Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are.

  • “I feel hopeless, so life must really be hopeless.”
  • “I feel unlovable, so I must not be worthy of love.”

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

  • “I was rejected by someone—I’ll never have a significant other.”
  • “I’ll always feel depressed.”

3. Mind reading: You assume that others are reacting negatively to you without any definite evidence of this.

  • “He isn’t smiling at me; that means he doesn’t approve of me.”
  • “They wouldn’t want me to join their lunch table—they won’t like me.”

4. Discounting the positive: You insist that your positive qualities and accomplishments “don’t count.”

  • “It doesn’t matter that I’m intelligent, kind, talented, etc.”

5. Personalization: You hold yourself responsible for events not entirely under your control.

  • “My child got a bad grade—I’m a bad parent.”
  • “My spouse is grumpy after work today. I’m a failure if I can’t cheer him up.”

Changing your thinking

Now your hardest task begins—if you identify a distorted thought that makes you feel depressed, rethink it. This takes regular practice. Rather than accept that all your thoughts are true, be willing to write down the ones that upset you, and dispute them:

1. Examine the evidence: Is there any proof that your thought is valid?

  • What proof do you have that someone doesn’t like you or that it’s your fault that your child got a bad grade? Often you won’t find genuine proof.

2. Re-attribution: What other factors may contribute to this problem?

  • Acknowledge that other people and circumstances led to your spouse’s grumpiness—it doesn’t have to be your fault.

3. Thinking in shades of gray: Try to remove “always” and “never” from your negative beliefs.

  • Yes, you will sometimes feel depressed or be rejected, but not always.

4. Double-standard method: Talk to yourself as you would a friend in a similar situation.

  • Do you discount your friend’s talents and strengths? Would you call him unworthy of love?

Keep plugging

Dr. Burns advises you to be patient and keep working on recognizing which thoughts are robbing you of joy. Some of your irrational beliefs have been around a long time and might be hard to let go of right away—but it’s worth the effort to free yourself from thoughts that cause you such pain.

Richard Carlson, PhD, Author of You Can Be Happy No Matter What, encourages you to accept that low moods can produce negative thoughts, so try not to jump willingly into self-defeating thoughts, even if you’re not ready to rethink them. See them as symptoms of your mood, label them “invalid” and let them go.

Remember to tell your doctor how you’ve been feeling, and don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a mental health professional as you work toward feeling better.

Resources

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin Seligman, PhD. Atria Books, 2012.

Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Rodale Books, 2012.

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, MD. William Morrow and Company Inc., 1989; Psychology Information Online, www.psychologyinfo.com; Donald J. Franklin, PhD; How to Be Happy No Matter What by Richard Carlson, PhD. New World Library, 1992.

Summary

Identify unrealistic thoughts that depress you, and learn to think more realistically.

If you’ve ever imagined a tragedy or loss in your life, you know the power of your thoughts over your mood. Thinking sad thoughts can make you feel sad.

If you’ve ever had clinical depression, you also know how a low mood can produce negative thoughts. Feeling sad can make you think sad thoughts.

Don’t waste a minute thinking which comes first—thoughts or feelings. If you are depressed, you want to feel better.

If you think you are experiencing more than a fleeting case of the blues, visit your doctor or a mental health professional for proper diagnosis. One method of coping with depression is to take a look at the thoughts that maintain your low mood. One way to improve that mood, according to David Burns, MD, is to identify unrealistic thoughts that depress you, and learn to think more realistically.

Not every thought is true

Dr. Burns’ is built on the claims of cognitive psychology, that irrational thinking underlies most psychological problems. He breaks it down into “ABCs”:

  • A = actual event, such as being reprimanded at work by your boss
  • B = beliefs you have about yourself and life, such as “I’m so inadequate”
  • C = consequences of your beliefs, such as feeling depressed and angry at yourself

Are you willing to apply this ABC process to your own experiences? Be prepared for the most difficult part of the equation—accepting that your beliefs that cause you such grief are likely not true.

Sorting through irrational thoughts

New Jersey-based psychologist Donald J. Franklin, PhD, suggests enlisting the help of a cognitive therapist if you find it difficult to identify which of your beliefs is irrational. A cognitive therapist might use terms similar to those Dr. Burns uses in his book, The Feeling Good Handbook, to describe several kinds of faulty thought patterns, or cognitive distortions, that depress you. The next time you feel depressed, try to write down everything running through your mind. See whether your thoughts resemble these cognitive distortions:

1. Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are.

  • “I feel hopeless, so life must really be hopeless.”
  • “I feel unlovable, so I must not be worthy of love.”

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

  • “I was rejected by someone—I’ll never have a significant other.”
  • “I’ll always feel depressed.”

3. Mind reading: You assume that others are reacting negatively to you without any definite evidence of this.

  • “He isn’t smiling at me; that means he doesn’t approve of me.”
  • “They wouldn’t want me to join their lunch table—they won’t like me.”

4. Discounting the positive: You insist that your positive qualities and accomplishments “don’t count.”

  • “It doesn’t matter that I’m intelligent, kind, talented, etc.”

5. Personalization: You hold yourself responsible for events not entirely under your control.

  • “My child got a bad grade—I’m a bad parent.”
  • “My spouse is grumpy after work today. I’m a failure if I can’t cheer him up.”

Changing your thinking

Now your hardest task begins—if you identify a distorted thought that makes you feel depressed, rethink it. This takes regular practice. Rather than accept that all your thoughts are true, be willing to write down the ones that upset you, and dispute them:

1. Examine the evidence: Is there any proof that your thought is valid?

  • What proof do you have that someone doesn’t like you or that it’s your fault that your child got a bad grade? Often you won’t find genuine proof.

2. Re-attribution: What other factors may contribute to this problem?

  • Acknowledge that other people and circumstances led to your spouse’s grumpiness—it doesn’t have to be your fault.

3. Thinking in shades of gray: Try to remove “always” and “never” from your negative beliefs.

  • Yes, you will sometimes feel depressed or be rejected, but not always.

4. Double-standard method: Talk to yourself as you would a friend in a similar situation.

  • Do you discount your friend’s talents and strengths? Would you call him unworthy of love?

Keep plugging

Dr. Burns advises you to be patient and keep working on recognizing which thoughts are robbing you of joy. Some of your irrational beliefs have been around a long time and might be hard to let go of right away—but it’s worth the effort to free yourself from thoughts that cause you such pain.

Richard Carlson, PhD, Author of You Can Be Happy No Matter What, encourages you to accept that low moods can produce negative thoughts, so try not to jump willingly into self-defeating thoughts, even if you’re not ready to rethink them. See them as symptoms of your mood, label them “invalid” and let them go.

Remember to tell your doctor how you’ve been feeling, and don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a mental health professional as you work toward feeling better.

Resources

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin Seligman, PhD. Atria Books, 2012.

Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Rodale Books, 2012.

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, MD. William Morrow and Company Inc., 1989; Psychology Information Online, www.psychologyinfo.com; Donald J. Franklin, PhD; How to Be Happy No Matter What by Richard Carlson, PhD. New World Library, 1992.

Summary

Identify unrealistic thoughts that depress you, and learn to think more realistically.

If you’ve ever imagined a tragedy or loss in your life, you know the power of your thoughts over your mood. Thinking sad thoughts can make you feel sad.

If you’ve ever had clinical depression, you also know how a low mood can produce negative thoughts. Feeling sad can make you think sad thoughts.

Don’t waste a minute thinking which comes first—thoughts or feelings. If you are depressed, you want to feel better.

If you think you are experiencing more than a fleeting case of the blues, visit your doctor or a mental health professional for proper diagnosis. One method of coping with depression is to take a look at the thoughts that maintain your low mood. One way to improve that mood, according to David Burns, MD, is to identify unrealistic thoughts that depress you, and learn to think more realistically.

Not every thought is true

Dr. Burns’ is built on the claims of cognitive psychology, that irrational thinking underlies most psychological problems. He breaks it down into “ABCs”:

  • A = actual event, such as being reprimanded at work by your boss
  • B = beliefs you have about yourself and life, such as “I’m so inadequate”
  • C = consequences of your beliefs, such as feeling depressed and angry at yourself

Are you willing to apply this ABC process to your own experiences? Be prepared for the most difficult part of the equation—accepting that your beliefs that cause you such grief are likely not true.

Sorting through irrational thoughts

New Jersey-based psychologist Donald J. Franklin, PhD, suggests enlisting the help of a cognitive therapist if you find it difficult to identify which of your beliefs is irrational. A cognitive therapist might use terms similar to those Dr. Burns uses in his book, The Feeling Good Handbook, to describe several kinds of faulty thought patterns, or cognitive distortions, that depress you. The next time you feel depressed, try to write down everything running through your mind. See whether your thoughts resemble these cognitive distortions:

1. Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are.

  • “I feel hopeless, so life must really be hopeless.”
  • “I feel unlovable, so I must not be worthy of love.”

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

  • “I was rejected by someone—I’ll never have a significant other.”
  • “I’ll always feel depressed.”

3. Mind reading: You assume that others are reacting negatively to you without any definite evidence of this.

  • “He isn’t smiling at me; that means he doesn’t approve of me.”
  • “They wouldn’t want me to join their lunch table—they won’t like me.”

4. Discounting the positive: You insist that your positive qualities and accomplishments “don’t count.”

  • “It doesn’t matter that I’m intelligent, kind, talented, etc.”

5. Personalization: You hold yourself responsible for events not entirely under your control.

  • “My child got a bad grade—I’m a bad parent.”
  • “My spouse is grumpy after work today. I’m a failure if I can’t cheer him up.”

Changing your thinking

Now your hardest task begins—if you identify a distorted thought that makes you feel depressed, rethink it. This takes regular practice. Rather than accept that all your thoughts are true, be willing to write down the ones that upset you, and dispute them:

1. Examine the evidence: Is there any proof that your thought is valid?

  • What proof do you have that someone doesn’t like you or that it’s your fault that your child got a bad grade? Often you won’t find genuine proof.

2. Re-attribution: What other factors may contribute to this problem?

  • Acknowledge that other people and circumstances led to your spouse’s grumpiness—it doesn’t have to be your fault.

3. Thinking in shades of gray: Try to remove “always” and “never” from your negative beliefs.

  • Yes, you will sometimes feel depressed or be rejected, but not always.

4. Double-standard method: Talk to yourself as you would a friend in a similar situation.

  • Do you discount your friend’s talents and strengths? Would you call him unworthy of love?

Keep plugging

Dr. Burns advises you to be patient and keep working on recognizing which thoughts are robbing you of joy. Some of your irrational beliefs have been around a long time and might be hard to let go of right away—but it’s worth the effort to free yourself from thoughts that cause you such pain.

Richard Carlson, PhD, Author of You Can Be Happy No Matter What, encourages you to accept that low moods can produce negative thoughts, so try not to jump willingly into self-defeating thoughts, even if you’re not ready to rethink them. See them as symptoms of your mood, label them “invalid” and let them go.

Remember to tell your doctor how you’ve been feeling, and don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a mental health professional as you work toward feeling better.

Resources

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin Seligman, PhD. Atria Books, 2012.

Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Rodale Books, 2012.

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, MD. William Morrow and Company Inc., 1989; Psychology Information Online, www.psychologyinfo.com; Donald J. Franklin, PhD; How to Be Happy No Matter What by Richard Carlson, PhD. New World Library, 1992.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

Close

  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.