An Approach to Handling Depression, Anxiety, Fear & Guilt

 

TWO PRIMARY MODES OF TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION

    • Biochemical Approach
    • Counseling Approach – for feelings of sadness or irritability that won’t go away

RECOGNIZED SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION (KEY: Persistence of symptoms)

    • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy hobbies
    • A change in weight or appetite
    • Sleep disturbances, such as trouble falling asleep, waking up too early or oversleeping
    • Feelings of guilt, lack of self-worth or helplessness
    • Decreased ability to concentrate
    • Fatigue or loss of energy
    • Restless or slowed activity noticed by other people
    • Thoughts about life not being worthwhile, or about suicide or death

COGNITIVE APPROACH STUDY VS. DRUG TREATMENT (Main Principles)

    1. Your moods (depression, anxiousness, fearfulness, feelings of guilt) are created by your “cognition” or thoughts.
    2. When you are feeing depressed, anxious, your thoughts are dominated by a pervasive negativity. And these negative thoughts you have seem more and more to be reality to you.
    3. The negative thoughts, which cause the emotional turmoil, nearly always contain gross distortions; they are twisted, are irrational.

COMMON IRRATIONAL IDEAS:

  1. It is a dire necessity to be loved and approved of.
  2. I should be thoroughly competent, adequate and achieving in all possible respects.
  3. Some people are bad, wicked or vile and should (or must be) punished.
  4. If things do not go (or stay) the way I very much want them to, it would be awful, catastrophic or terrible!
  5. Unhappiness is externally caused and I cannot control it (unless I control the other person).
  6. One should remain upset or worried if faced with a dangerous or fearsome reality.
  7. It is easier to avoid responsibility and difficulties than to face them.
  8. I have a right to be dependent and people (or someone) should be strong enough to rely on (or take care of me).
  9. My early childhood experiences must continue to control me and determine my emotions and behavior!
  10. I should become upset over my and other people’s problems or behavior.
  11. There is invariably one right, precise, and perfect solution and it would be terrible or catastrophic if this perfect solution is not found.
  12. The world (and especially other people) should be fair and justice(or mercy) must triumph.

DESCRIPTION OF COGNITIVE/MOOD ORIGINS

  1. Stimuli: World of experiences affecting all sensory modes
  2. Brain processing: You interpret the events with a series of evaluation (+ – 0) that affect your thoughts (internal dialogue)
  3. Moods: Your feelings are created by our thoughts and not the actual events. Your brain gives a meaning to all experiences before an emotional response is triggered.

THOUGHT REFORM THOUGHTS (Six Major Cognitive Distortions)

  1. ALL OR NOTHING THINKING (Tendency to evaluate your personal qualities or life in extreme, black-or-white categories. It’s seeing life in boxes of absolutes.)
    • “I’ll never be able to find another group of people to care about me like [name the group] did.”
    • “My life is a total mess. I’ve screwed everything up.”
    • No one really loves me. I’ll be left alone forever with no one with which to share a future.”
    • No one understands me or cares how I feel about things.”
    • “I’ll never  be able to fit into this world system. I just don’t belong.”
    • “I’m always making stupid choices in life. I let myself be deceived and exploited. I’m a total failure.”
    • “I’m forever ruined because my parents raised me in a cult.”
  2. OVER GENERALIZATION (Occurs when you expect uniform “bad luck” because of 1 or 2 bad experiences. You assume that once something has happened to you, it will continue to occur over and over again.)
    • “I’ve lost all my close friends that were in the group. I know I’ll never find any close friends like that again”
    • “My dad ‘used’ me; the deceptive leader ‘used’ me. I can’t trust anyone anymore.”
    • John (or Julie) broke up with me. I’ll never be able to have a loving relationship with anyone again. I’m gonna be miserable and lonely the rest of my 1ife.”
  3. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS
    • Mind Reading: (You assume that others or God look down on you without checking the validity of the assumption.)
      • “God must really be ashamed of me for messing up. I know he’ll never be close to me anymore.”
      • “My dad (or mom) probably thinks I’m a total jerk for falling for this group. They’ll never think much of me or my judgment again.”
    • Fortune Teller Error: (You look into the future and only see disaster.)
      • “My future is hopeless. I’ve messed it up royally, how can it get better?”
      • “Without a group to belong to, I’m doomed to live a life that doesn’t fit in anywhere.”
  4. EMOTIONAL REASONING (Your emotions seem to be evidence for the thought.)
    • “I’ve lost all my close friends that were in the group. I know I’ll never find any close friends like that again”
    • “My dad ‘used’ me; the deceptive leader ‘used’ me. I can’t trust anyone anymore.”
    • John (or Julie) broke up with me. I’ll never be able to have a loving relationship with anyone again. I’m gonna be miserable and lonely the rest of my 1ife.”
  5. SHOULD STATEMENTS (It is imposing thinking that makes you feel guilty about something without ever helping you to do something about it.)
    • “I should have meditated longer, then I’d have more peace in my life.”
    • I should have prayed more about this relationship, then it would have worked out better.”
    • “I should have prayed more about this relationship, then it would have worked out better.”
    • “I should lose weight. I’m too fat. I should be more disciplined about this thing. I should work hard at sticking to this diet.”
    • “If I work hard at something, I should get it, or people shouldn’t have treated me that way. I wouldn’t have treated anyone that way.”
  6. MENTAL FILTER (Is when you seize a negative fragment of a situation and dwell on it; it’s like wearing a special lens that filters out everything positive. You soon conclude everything is negative.)
    • The whole cult/cultic experience was a waste. I’ve lost eighteen years of my life for nothing.
    • People are basically cruel and insensitive. My leader was no different than anyone else. Life is a crock.”

CHALLENGING THOUGHTS

  1. Identify automatic, irrational thought.
  2. Name the cognitive distortion
  3. Challenge the thought, rationally.

COGNITIVE FOCUSING IS GOOD FOR EXITERS

  1. Stops cliché thinking/responding.
  2. Retrains cognitive channel vs. subconscious modes of stress reduction.

NOTE: It has been recommended that the reader take a sheet of paper and divide it into the following four columns and then challenge your own irrational thoughts (cognitive distortions) and replace them with rational (cognitive) re-thinking.

DATEAUTOMATIC THOUGHTSCOGNITIVE DISTORTIONSRATIONAL RE-THINKING
January 1I feel so guilty.Emotional ReasoningAnyone can be deceived.
If I had all the facts ahead of time I wouldn't have joined.

CRITERIA FOR BEHAVING RATIONALLY (In my own best interest)

Would my feeling or acting this way be:

  1. Thinking objectively about the actual facts and considering real probabilities?
  2. Life preserving?
  3. Likely to get me what I want? Long term goal producing?
  4. Likely to let me feel the way I want to feel?
  5. Likely to get me into or keep me out of trouble?

These criteria are rational for you so long as you prefer life to death and happiness to pain.

HOW DO YOU CHANGE A BELIEF?

  1. You recognize what the belief is and that you can change it.
  2. You stop acting or thinking on the basis of the old belief.
  3. You substitute a new, rational, and more personally meaningful belief for the old one.
  4. You act  in light of the new belief.
  5. You continue to behave in the rational new way, even though it feels strange to act this new way. That will cause the new belief to become real and part of your “natural” behavior (if you persist).

~Adapted from an article by Barbara Martin, M.A.

 

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