Depression! Probably the most commonly known mental illness, and also the most talked about. And with that comes a ton of myths and incorrect information. I came across people talking about depression as if they can randomly get it and get rid of it the next day. At the polar opposite end some people doubt its existence all together.
So today I would like to focus on the science behind it. There is a lot that goes behind the face of depression, and it’s very important to understand this for our own sake and to make sure you don’t misunderstand or underestimate somebody else’s pain.
Aaron Beck, an American psychiatrist is regarded as the father of cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. A whole new perspective opened up with his view on depression. He believed that depression is a thought disorder rather than a mood disorder. Further elaborating on this idea Beck in 1976 proposed a negative cognitive triad that comprises three key elements of a person’s belief system present in depression. This triad is a part of his cognitive theory of depression.
The triad includes negative thoughts about
- The Self
- The World or environment
- The Future
These thoughts usually occur impulsively, subconsciously and the person finds it difficult to control the occurrence of such thoughts.
The Self: The feeling of worthlessness. The person starts believing that he is a failure. He may feel useless and insignificant and attach very little value to himself. The person begins to compare himself with other people around and starts to feel inferior. There is a fall in their self-esteem. You might identify this when the person makes statements like:
- I am a failure
- I look ugly
- I am incompetent
The World: The feeling of helplessness. The person feels trapped, helpless, and finds it difficult or impossible to come out of a situation. It’s a feeling of being powerless in the face of stress and an inability to believe that anything can be done to overcome that feeling. You might identify this when the person makes statements like:
- People ignore me
- Everyone is against me
- Nobody loves me
The Future: The feeling of hopelessness. The person finds his future bleak and dark. He loses all hope for his future and gives up hope for a better tomorrow. Because of the negative view of the future, he loses interest in his present and no longer values things that were once important. He lacks the passion and inspiration to carry on. Usually, the feeling of hopelessness is instilled in a person due to negative life events that have discouraged and distressed him. You might identify this when the person makes statements like:
- I will never be happy
- There is no use trying
- I cannot compete
- I will never have a satisfying relationship
Beck identified another mechanism that sets the cognitive triad further in motion. He believed that people who have negative self- schema are more vulnerable to developing depression. Self-schema are beliefs or ideas about self that are derived from past experiences. The negative experiences from our past lead to the development of negative schema. People with such negative self-schema tend to process given information in a negative light.
The harsh truth about depression is how it slowly takes over one’s life. The occurrence of negative thoughts eventually become a natural and normal way of thinking and feeling. It becomes so deeply rooted that you don’t realize that this is not how you normally feel or think. If you feel that you, or any of your loved ones are saying things similar to the ones I have mentioned, I would strongly recommend you to visit a therapist. Visiting a therapist does not mean that you are agreeing that you are ill, it just means that you care enough about yourself/your loved ones to get help when you really need it.
Take it easy,
(MA Clinical Psychology, PGD Counselling)