Depression affects everyone in so many different ways, however as I previously mentioned in my blog, there are common symptoms that many people can identify with. I wanted to explain how we treat depression using CBT as the idea of CBT is not that I hold any magical abilities or magic pills; YOU have the means and ability to improve how you’re feeling (with a little help from me).
In CBT, we believe that there are three areas that are important to focus on when we consider our thoughts; otherwise known as the cognitive triad (Beck, 1967). When we experience depression we have a negative view of ourselves, a negative view of the world, and a negative view of the future.
These negative beliefs keep depression going as they each impact on the other and keep the vicious circle going. One intervention we use in CBT is focus on what you’re thinking and how this is keeping your problems going. When we’re depressed we see things through a negative lens and all information that we process is filtered through our beliefs (i.e. “I am worthless”, “Everybody hates me”, “I’ll never get better”).
One technique I can help you develop is ‘thought challenging’ – where you begin to learn how to view situations through a non-negative lens and to see things from different points of view. If you can see situations from a more helpful point of view, this breaks the vicious circle of negative thinking and can help us feel better.
Another vicious circle that is common in depression is the vicious circle of reduced activity. Because we can struggle to concentrate, motivate ourselves to do things, we’re tired and don’t feel like socialising anymore; when we’re depressed we often end up doing less. The problem is, we often stop doing things that we enjoy; either because we don’t enjoy them anymore, or because we don’t feel up to it. However, the less we do, the more tired we are, the less motivation we have, and we actually end up feeling worse.
Another intervention we use in CBT is called activity scheduling. This is where I ask you to complete a diary so we can see a baseline of what your activity levels look like each day. Together we can begin to see if there are any patterns to when you feel better or worse, if you’re doing too much and not giving yourself a break, or if there are times when your activity levels are making you feel worse.
Through activity scheduling, we begin to schedule in very small and manageable tasks that are individual and tailored to you, to begin to help increase your levels of activity and pleasure. This intervention is in your control and we decide together what’s realistic for you and how you’re feeling. Activity scheduling is usually one of the first interventions we’ll look at as it helps people feel better, improves the physical symptoms of depression such as low motivation, tiredness, poor sleep, and it helps improve our concentration.
There are many more interventions that introduce when I’m working with someone experiencing depression. These are just two examples, and every treatment plan is tailored to the person sat in front of me. If you’d like to find out more please feel free to get in touch!