Coping with depression.
As I’ve referenced in several posts I’ve struggled with Anxiety and Depression for most of my adult life. I consider myself fortunate that my battle has never been as difficult as some fight on a daily basis but it’s still far from easy at times.
In recent months I’ve finally begun to face up to it and seek professional help to ensure I get better at coping with depression. A mixture of medication and therapy does help as long as I help myself at the same time by living my life properly.
One treatment method I’ve attempted has been a group therapy session entitled, ‘Coping with Depression’. It a weekly forum where participants learn some coping mechanisms to reduce, or remove, some of the negative thoughts and behaviours associated with mental health conditions.
It’s a personal opinion but I actually believe that a lot of the content would be helpful, not just for those suffering with their mental health, but for those supporting a loved one. It would also be beneficial for those with people responsibilities in the workplace and even for younger people in schools or other further education institutions.
With this in mind I thought I’d share a few of the simple techniques we’ve been shown in the ‘Coping with Depression’ group so far. Before I do it’s really important that anybody reading this fully understands that I am not a mental health professional and this is just me bringing to life what I’ve learned over the past few weeks.
If you believe you, or someone you know, may be suffering from a mental health issue then please seek professional help as soon as possible.
1. The Vicious Cycle
The Vicious Cycle helps us to recognise how the symptoms of depression can be broken down in to separate areas. Understanding this helps us to notice within ourselves what is happening in terms of:
- Altered thoughts
- Altered feelings
- Altered behaviour
- Altered physical symptoms
Once we get better at noticing how the symptoms of depression manifest themselves in one of these four areas it becomes easier to apply other techniques to mitigate them.
2. Behavioural Activation
People who are depressed reduce the frequency and type of their usual behaviours. They might put off household chores or taking care of their own hygiene. It’s also likely that they will reduce interactions with friends, family or work colleagues even if they previously enjoyed those activities. Some relief can be obtained by doing this but the danger is that avoidance is negatively reinforced, i.e. the frequency of the avoidance increases.
Behavioural activation is a technique for enabling change in this area. In very simple terms the process for this is:
- Identifying routine, pleasurable and necessary activities
- Defining the importance of the routine, pleasurable and necessary activities identified
- Planning activities using a diary template
- Implementing (just doing) the behavioural activation activities identified
- Taking time to review progress
- Practice, practice, practice
3. Challenging Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts often lead to low mood, however the worse we feel the more negative thoughts we have.
A technique known as cognitive restructuring helps us to achieve more balanced thinking:
Identify your negative thought, e.g. My partner doesn’t love me any more.
Rate how much you believe this thought, e.g. 95%
What factual evidence is there to support this thought? e.g. words spoken, body language
What factual evidence is there that does not support this thought? e.g. still together, cooked me a meal, asked about my day
Considering the evidence for and against, try to make a more balanced thought, e.g. There are problems but we have much to build on if only we can communicate more
Rate how much you believe the restructured thought, e.g. 70%
4. Responsibility Pie
People with depression often blame themselves for things more than is the reality. This technique asks people to think about all the factors that may have contributed to a particular event, rather then just their own perceived responsibility.
I hope you found this post interesting and useful. It’s only a very small snap shot of what is a complex area. Perhaps there is one thing that you recognise in yourself or someone close to you that provides food for thought and a desire to explore further.
You might be interested in the following book which provides a really simple introduction to cognitive behavioural therapy:
My other posts in this area can be accessed through the following links: