Overcoming Depression (CCT)
The world is full of wonders that bring us unforgettable experiences. However, it is sometimes the source of many fears which may lead to chronic anxiety and, in the most severe cases, plunge us into severe depression. Above all, it is important that you ask yourself the following question: “What is the source of this anxiety?” Is this really what is happening around us or is it the way we are interpreting it? According to cognitive-behavioural therapy, our cognitions, i.e. our thoughts and beliefs, are the source of our emotions, and they cause our reactions, namely the behaviours that plunge us into a state of depression.
Why am I telling you about this type of therapy? Well, it is because cognitive‑behavioural therapy is currently producing excellent results in treating anxiety and especially depression, which is considered the disease of the century.
This therapy, which dates back to the 1960s, was developed by Dr. Aaron Beck and his staff. It is based on the premise that our emotions and behaviours are a direct result of our thoughts and beliefs. So the way we interpret and perceive events are at issue. How do we know this? Well, it’s simple. In times of crisis, for example, the people involved all react differently. Some are very anxious, while others manage to “rationalize” the situation, i.e. they do not overreact.
Humans are good students. While growing up, they undergo experiences that create filters through which they perceive events. They also receive filters from their parents and families. Some people receive “rose-coloured glasses” and see the positive side of life, while others receive “dark sunglasses” and see evil everywhere. Some people may end up having unusually negative, irrational thoughts known as cognitive distortions, which are the source of many problems.
When an event occurs, we use these filters to interpret it. For example, Denise’s friend John comes back from work and looks through his mail. When he sees Denise, he heaves a deep sigh. Denise is upset because she was so anxious to see him. She thinks that he is not happy to see her and leaves, crying.
Behavioural-cognitive therapy attempts to remove negative filters so that people can interpret these types of situations objectively. John might have been sick or concerned about an incident at work. Actually, he had just received a letter from the Canada Revenue Agency. Who could blame him for sighing?
As you know, it is very difficult, even impossible, to stop certain emotions from overflowing. For example, telling a depressed person to stop being depressed is pointless. What makes behavioural or cognitive therapy effective is that it acts on clients’ thoughts rather than their emotions.
In our example, the therapist would help Denise see all the possible reasons that might account for John’s sighing. Was he sick or did he had a bad day at work? Does he have a nervous tic? The therapist can use this technique to encourage Denise to consider other possibilities, which may help her understand the real reason why John sighed and, at the same time, eliminate the source of her anxiety. The therapist will also help her to become aware of her filters and cognitive distortions.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy has the advantage of being based on the present, and can help break the vicious circle associated with cognitive distortions. It is one of the most effective therapies when anxiety and depression are at the heart of the problem. If you are interested in this therapy, there are many books on the subject. I suggest the following two titles: Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky and The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David D. Burns. These books provide a wide range of information, exercises and examples of cognitive distortions, and much more. If you would like more information, talk to your doctor and he or she will point you in the right direction.