Program 12



  1. What is Depression?
  2. The Biology of Depression
  3. Psychological and Social Factors
  4. First Steps
  5. How to Challenge Self-Attacking
  6. The Effects of Negative Labels
  7. Conclusion

  1. What is Depression?

This emotion can ensue from loss of any form resulting in self-devaluation. When depressed, people withdraw into themselves thus, worsening their depressed state. You may have a negative view of yourself, others (world), and the future. [Cognitive Triad]. There is loss of appetite, motivation, libido, interests, pleasure, decisiveness, sleep patterns can be poor, and there may be suicidal thoughts. Depression is sometimes seen as anger turned inward.

Three causes of depression are:

Self-blame – continually criticizing or despising yourself for your misfortunes in life.

Self-pity – feeling sorry for yourself over your lot in life.

Feeling sorry for the misfortunes of others (e.g. famine).

Sadness is a normal emotion resulting from realistic perceptions of loss – depression is an illness caused by negative, distorted thinking.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Modifying Maladaptive Thinking.

You need to develop a daily activity schedule to keep you busy thus, countering your depression inducing thinking. You will be motivated to sustain the action which improves your energy and mood levels.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Planning an Activity Schedule.

Change unhelpful behaviours and increase pleasurable activities by setting realistic goals – try to do one or two of these each day and reward yourself for the effort. Identifying and challenging depressive thoughts and beliefs and taking action against these negative thoughts and beliefs will help you to overcome your feelings of helplessness and hopelessness so you can start to enjoy life once more.

Depression is a state of mind in which you will be aware of feeling far more than just low. It is very common and has been prevalent for thousands of years. A variety of symptoms are encompassed by depression. Sometimes emotions such as anxiety or anger which are common to depression can cause more trouble than the depression itself. Perhaps you also suffer guilt arising from a powerful urge to get away.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Troublesome Emotions, Forgiveness, Program 6: Overcoming Anger, Program 8: Overcoming Anxiety and Program 4: Overcoming Addiction.

Depression can be uni-polar (suffering from only depression) or bipolar (manic depression, swinging from both poles of mood – high and low). Whether severe or less so, depression can be disturbing and have a crippling effect on your life. Your depression may arise from a real or perceived loss and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

See Program 15: Overcoming Grief And Bereavement.

The acronym SIGECAPS [Sleep (disturbed), Interest (anhedonia – lack of pleasure in activities/life), Guilt, Energy (lack of), Concentration (lack of)), Appetite (disturbed), Psychomotor (agitation/retardation of physical movements), Suicidality] can identify depression.

The depressed person feels unable to alter their life situation and is unhappy (helplessness). Also, they cannot envision any change for the future (hopelessness). They view themselves, others (world), and the future in negative terms. Their negative thinking tends to dwell on themes of loss or a failure to achieve a valued goal.

As depression worsens, self-doubt is likely to increase. You may be indecisive, fear failure, and mental slowing can make it difficult to solve problems. As anxiety increases, so does the tendency to catastrophize (predict the absolute worst). Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and this can deprive them of interactions that give strength in hard times and hope for the future. Depressed clients tend to focus on the past; they need to be taught to focus on the present.

The important thing to remember if you are feeling a failure, angry, trapped or think that life is not worth living is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are many options available to those who are depressed, from some good drugs (anti-depressants) to many effective psychological treatments.

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  1. The Biology of Depression


The physical and psychological levels of the body overlap so depression is caused by changes in body and mind. There is a genetic risk of depression for some people but early life experiences can also lead to biological susceptibility. Stress causes biological changes in the brain which can lead you to become increasingly focused on the negative, more fatigued and more stressed.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Problem-Solving, Program 22: Overcoming Stress and Program 23: Overcoming Stress At Work.

Learning to have more control over your life and thoughts can be helpful in numerous ways including allowing your brain chemistry an opportunity to recover. Biological processes are related to the powerful state of mind that is depression. The brain is physically different when you are depressed from when you are well.

Just as grief can be the result of loss, depression can be switched on by problems you have in your life and how you come to view them. Coping with the loss of a loved one, of being subordinated and/or defeated are examples of mechanisms in the brain that evolved long ago. There are features of depression that seem to be connected to these mechanisms.

Unlovability, inferiority, defeat or entrapment, are examples of the sorts of thinking that depression is inclined to concentrate your mind on. Once depression is initiated, whether it is controlled or stays switched on is dependent to a powerful extent on your thinking. Self-attacking and self-supporting can increase or decrease stress respectively, and impact on your mood.

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  1. Psychological and Social Factors

Depression is linked to negative thinking and a reduction in positive behaviour. The quality of our relationships is connected to how good we feel in life. When depressed, relationships can often be viewed negatively. Occurrences in early life can be a cause for difficulties in relationships.

We often form a number of latent negative beliefs about ourselves, usually in childhood. Susceptibility to depression may arise due to these views. When negative events take place these basic beliefs can be switched on again and you explain the events with your negative beliefs, for example, ‘My marriage ended in divorce because of me – I am unlovable’.

Depression can result from not having a valued part in society. Our self-esteem is frequently derived from our social roles.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Social Skills Training, Communication Training, Negotiation Training, Program 13: Overcoming Destructive Relationships and Program 16: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem.    

We require social environments which help our goals and pursuits of valuable social roles. Depression should never be associated with personal frailty or inadequacy. It is due to over-stressing ourselves and the exhaustion which ensues leaving us feeling defeated.

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  1. First Steps

Very occasionally depression arises from physical conditions that need to be screened out as soon as possible. The vast majority of cases of depression are not triggered by a physical condition. Due to the variety in the forms and causes of depression it is necessary to set about dealing with depression in different ways.

To deal with helplessness and hopelessness: Plan activities in steps – separate problems into basic steps and complete the steps one at a time. You need to experience a sense of accomplishment and derive pleasure from life, to beat depression.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Planning an Activity Schedule.

It is necessary that you work out your own requirements – increase your social contacts or allow yourself personal space according to your needs. Attempt to have some positive activities in your life. At times when relaxation is ineffective try increasing activity and distraction. Certain thoughts can be controlled in this way.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Distraction Techniques.

Learn to work within your limits and avoid burnout.

You may seriously need to consider taking an anti-depressant to help you restart. Changes to your lifestyle may be necessary (e.g. a healthy diet, take exercise, reduce your alcohol intake, try to get off stimulants and other drugs, try to come off tranquillizers with medical advice, learn how to relax and distract yourself).

Note the points above that you think are relevant to you.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Nutrition, Exercise, Managing Your Time and Sleep Management.

Consider how you are treating your body and in what manner you are organizing your activities. Is it possible for you to plan to do things in steps? Make a list of the positive things you would like to be a part of your life and think about ways that might realize some of these things.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Competitiveness and Perfectionism, Frustration, Procrastination and Persistence.

Deal with your distress in situations you fear by exposure – FEAR (face everything and recover).

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Controlled Breathing and Relaxation Techniques, Eye Movement Technique (EMT), Mood Induction Procedure, Rational Emotive Imagery (REI), Imago Graded Exposure and In Vivo Graded Exposure.

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  1. How to Challenge Self- Attacking

We can self-attack/self-bully ourselves in many different ways without being aware of our actions. Some of these ways include: self-criticism, personalization and self-blaming (you automatically tend to assume you are in the wrong or the cause of negative events), self-labelling, judging yourself rather than your behaviour and not seeing the two as different, self-attacking, self-hatred and social comparison.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Coping with the Need for Approval, Improving Your Self-Image and Combating Self-Harm, Criticism and Countering Self-Criticism.

If you are to beat your depression you need to examine these types of thinking. Are they reasonable and able to produce good results? Contemplate how you can cure them. Sort out your relationship with yourself and concentrate on an inner cure before you start looking for a cure.

Consider the types of self-bullying thinking given above. Which of them are relevant to you? Familiarize yourself with the ways in which you bully yourself.

Write down your thoughts when something occurs and you feel bad about yourself. Note what you are stating about yourself and what it means to you. Using your Thought Monitoring Record:

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Modifying Maladaptive Thinking.

Concentrate on Challenging Your Thoughts, employing your rational and compassionate self to create counter views of yourself.

Think about how you may be using the types of negative thinking.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Distorted Thinking.

How would you prevent a friend from self-bullying? Make this relevant to yourself. Consider the information available and look for alternatives. How do you take care of yourself with these thoughts? Do these thoughts assist you to look after yourself? Gradually increase your perceptions and understanding.

Build confidence.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Assertiveness Training, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Building Confidence I, Building Confidence II, Building Confidence III and Building Confidence IV.

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  1. The Effects of Negative Labels

We often identify our whole self with a single word/label/name-calling (e.g. weak, stupid, unlovable etc.) The labels may differ for individuals, but they are mostly negative judgments of us. When we become focused on negative feelings and labels they can greatly affect our thoughts and feelings. It can be helpful to challenge these labels.

Consider the following labels and see if they are relevant to you: bad, failure, hopeless, incompetent, loser, nuisance, ugly, unlovable, stupid, weak and worthless. There might be others that are relevant if these are not. Do you label yourself?

When did you start labelling yourself? If it was others, do you remember what was occurring at the time? What did they gain from labelling you in this way? Was it their way of diverting the blame from themselves or did they find you an easy target? You should tell yourself that the time has come to abandon these labels and think about doing so. They are unwanted and not necessary. Apart from the effort would anything prevent you from doing this? Think about the advantages and disadvantages.

Challenge these labels by being rational and compassionate. Explore other demanding tasks that may be useful. You have nothing to lose from attempting them to find out if they are of benefit. Keep in mind that in depression you tend to concentrate on the negatives. Focus on practising the positives. The more you do this the better your mood will be and the less stress you will feel.

To see that it is an error to call you a ‘failure’:

Draw three circles and fill the first with crosses; the second with small circles; the third with a mixture of crosses and small circles. The first represents a person who is a ‘complete failure’ – do you fail at everything? The second represents someone who is ‘perfect’ – do you succeed at everything? The third represents a person who is ‘human’ – do you have a mixture of successes and failures?

Big I/Little i: Draw a Big I and fill it with lots of little i’s. The little i’s represent aspects of self and are limitless. Mistake is to think some of these little i’s represent the self (Big I), resulting in self-criticism.

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  1. Conclusion

Ask for help if you require it. Proceed in steps. Break problems down so you can manage them more easily. Increase the positives in your life.

Pay more consideration to and try to become more knowledgeable about the thoughts and ideas that enter your mind when depressed. Recognize the types of negative thinking you may be using. Write down your thoughts to make them clearer. Recognize the key themes in your depression (e.g. your shame and high ideals). Acquire the ability to use your rational and compassionate self to challenge and look for alternatives to your negative thoughts.

Expect to have your progress halted and to suffer failure at achieving what you desire, occasionally. The way forward is to have compassion for yourself and the courage and determination to face your difficulties and alter your behaviour being a genuine friend to yourself.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Relapse Prevention.

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