Written by: Dr. Gloria Lee, Registered Psychologist
When a new client tells me about their depression, they often wonder why they aren’t getting any better or perhaps even getting worse. Some have been taking antidepressants for years or even decades, but haven’t seen much improvement.
The psych-illogical thing is, your depression doesn’t magically disappear by taking antidepressants. You have to deal with what is causing your depression. Antidepressants may help you to cope with the symptoms of depression, but they do not take away the negative thoughts that may be perpetuating your depression.
Here are 10 negative thinking patterns that may be keeping you stuck in your depression.
1. All or Nothing Thinking
Everything is either black or white, good or bad, all or nothing. For example, you say to yourself, “I’m NEVER going to get better. I’m ALWAYS going to feel this way.” There is no in between or flexibility in thinking.
Taking something small and blowing it out of proportion as a catastrophic event. For instance, you are 10 minutes late for a dentist appointment and you say to yourself, “I’m so stupid and irresponsible. Everyone’s going to be so mad. The dentist won’t see me today and they won’t let me rebook an appointment.”
3. Maximizing the Bad, Minimizing the Good
Exaggerating bad things or events and dismissing the good. For example, when your boss praises your work and also gives some constructive feedback, you hyperfocus on the constructive feedback, and dismiss the positive comments.
4. Yah But…
Always finding an excuse not to believe in something positive or not to try something new. For instance, your friend offers to take you out to cheer you up and you say to them, “yah that’s nice but that’s not going to help me feel any better.”
Seeing one negative event and generalizing it as if it’s always true. Like catastrophizing, we take one experience and then generalize it across the board to be true in all circumstances. For instance, if you don’t do well on ONE test in ONE subject, you generalize that you are not going to do well on ANY tests in ALL subjects.
6. Negativity Bias
Tendency to notice and focus on the negative instead of the positive. For example, you give a presentation and forget to state one point in your talk. You only focus on what you forgot to present instead of how the audience loved your presentation.
7. Disqualifying the Positive
Discounting anything positive as if it doesn’t count because it’s the exception. For instance, if you did well on an exam, you dismiss it by saying that you were just lucky that it was an easy exam and it’ll never happen again.
8. Mind Reading
Convinced that people’s thoughts toward you are negative, without any facts to back it up. For instance, your friend is quiet during a meal because they are upset about a recent break up, but you are convinced that this friend is quiet because they don’t like you and don’t want to be with you. However, you never check out your narrative to see if it’s true.
9. Fortune Telling
Predicting that an event will end negatively, without any proof, but convinced this is true. Similar to mind reading, you read into a situation and predict that it will turn out poorly. Therefore, you do not even try to engage in the first place. For example, you believe that no one is going to talk to you at the company party, so you don’t go to it.
10. Emotional Reasoning
You use your feelings as a gauge, therefore, whatever you are feeling is true. For instance, you feel anxious and awkward in a group setting so you automatically believe that others also think you are anxious and socially awkward.
What’s common with all 10 negative thinking patterns is that you justify all your negative thinking, accept them as truths without any facts backing them up, and never challenge them. This is often why depression is perpetuated. Pretty psych-illogical!
If you want to find ways to get out of these thinking traps that perpetuate your depression, please contact Brentwood Counselling Centre to see how we can help you.