There are two ways of thinking that raise your risk of lapsing into depression. One is perfectionistic thinking, which is characterized by the thought that if you can’t make life work exactly right people will disapprove of you. When a perfectionistic person’s unrealistic standards aren’t met, they automatically think negatively about themselves, their present situation, and their future.
The other thought process that’s related to depression involves pessimism. People who expect that bad things will probably happen (and good things won’t) don’t believe that there’s much they can do to improve their life, which leaves them feeling helpless and hopeless. Depression sets in if you don’t believe you have the necessary ability to overcome challenges, which in turn focuses you on failure and feelings of inadequacy.
The daily barrage of news reports is causing some people to experience pessimism. They feel their core values are being violated – and there’s nothing they can do to stop it. Serious rifts in families and friendships are occurring. The more helpless and alienated they feel, the more susceptible they are to depression.
There are 4 types of psychotherapy that have scientific support for being able to help people who are depressed: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), marriage counseling, interpersonal skill building, and positive psychology procedures.
CBT addresses people’s predominately negative perceptions of themselves, their circumstances, and their future. In CBT, you learn to identify your overly negative thoughts, to dispute them as being too pessimistic, and to replace them with a better balanced approach to problem solving. In addition to changing your cognitions so that you can see possible solutions, you’ll be encouraged to take specific actions to improve your situation so you’ll feel better.
Marriage counseling helps to break the cycle of allowing depression to contaminate your primary relationship, thereby cutting you off from a significant source of positive emotion, pleasure, and support. Marital therapy teaches couples how to re-engage in activities they enjoy, improve their communication, become more sensitive and supportive, and to build and broaden their loving feelings.
Individual interpersonal therapy works by helping you to deal with the distress in your interactions with others. Depression can be defeated by learning more satisfying ways to relate to your spouse, children, parents, boss, coworkers, and friends. Developing new relationships with others who are politically active converts stress into action.
Finally, positive psychology research has revealed more than a dozen strategies for boosting your happiness. Try noting the 3 best things that happened to you each day, or writing a gratitude letter to someone who’s made a difference in your life. Learning how to be happier has proven effective in defeating depression.
You’ll know that unhappiness has crossed the line into depression if for at least two weeks you’ve been experiencing 5 of the following 9 symptoms, and at least one of those symptoms is (1) or (2).
- A sad or irritable mood for most of the day. Nearly every day you feel down, anxious, or “empty.” Or (especially if you’re male), you’re feeling tense and easily angered.
- A loss of interest in pleasurable activities. Most days you’re not able to find any joy in doing the activities or hobbies that you used to make you feel good (including having sex).
- A sense of being helpless, worthless, or guilty. You find that you’re frequently ruminating about your problems and finding fault with either yourself or others.
- A major change in your eating. You’ve started eating a lot more lately and you’re putting on a substantial amount of weight. Or, you’ve lost your appetite and have lost quite a bit of weight even though you haven’t been dieting.
- A tough time with sleep. Nearly every night you struggle with getting to sleep, staying asleep, awakening early, or oversleeping.
- A feeling of fatigue. Most days you have very little energy.
- A feeling of being agitated or in slow motion. For weeks you’ve noticed your body seems unusually restless or tired.
- A problem with thinking clearly. Nearly every day you’re finding it hard to concentrate, remember things, or make decisions.
- A recurring thought involving death. Sometimes it seems like dying would be a way out of your unhappiness. Suicide may be on your mind, and you could even be considering how you might do it.
Your risk of developing depression is higher if it’s in your family background, you tend to be shy or withdrawn, you struggle in social interactions, or you tend to be very dependent on others.