Reversing the Cycle of Depression

upward spiralIn a previous post, we looked at the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) model of the vicious cycle of depression involving thoughts, feelings, behaviours, memories and physical symptoms. One of the first steps in overcoming depression is to put and end to this vicious cycle, and gain some momentum that can help you cycle in a positive direction.

Just as automatic negative thoughts result from and contribute to depression, by engaging in more neutral and balanced ways of thinking, we can begin to stop the vicious cycle involving negative thoughts and depression. Cognitive therapy provides an effective tool to help break out of negative patterns of thinking. As our thoughts become less negative, we begin to feel less depressed, and as we become less depressed, our thoughts about ourselves, our lives and our future become less negative, and so on.

We can experience similar reversal in these vicious cycles in other areas of our lives that are affected by, and affect depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help change behaviours that result from and contribute to depression such as reducing level of activity and withdrawing socially. Changes in diet, exercise, sleep habits and self-care can help alleviate the distressing physical symptoms associated with depression and lead to more energy and motivation.

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The Vicious Cycle of Depression

depression cycleIn the cogntive behavioural therapy (CBT) model of depression, one of the reasons that breaking out of depression can be so difficult is that depression generates vicious cycles involving a number of aspects of your life. Once you get stuck in these vicious cycles, they can be hard to break.

According to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), when you’re experiencing depression, you will tend to have automatic negative thoughts about yourself, the world and the future. This pattern of negative thinking you deeper into depression. This brings about further negative thoughts; which lead you to feel even more depressed; bringing about more negative thoughts; and so on.

Other vicious cycles that arise from depression involve feelings, behaviours, memories and physical symptoms. These vicious cycles are depicted below (click on the image to view a larger version):

vicious cycle of depression
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Calming Your Anxious, Worried Mind

worryWhy is it that when we’re feeling anxious, we tend to worry so much, even though worrying tends to do nothing except make us feel even more anxious? One reasoin is that it’s easy to regard worrying as something that can be productive: that it either helps us deal with anxiety, or protects us from the thing we’re feeling anxious about.

If worrying actually did have these effects, it would be quite beneficial. But unfortunately, worrying usually only increases anxiety. So why do we continue to do it time and time again?

Worrying tends to feel a lot like problem solving. When we problem solve, we identify a problem, come up with some possible solutions, weigh their pros and cons, and then take some sort of action to resolve the problem. Problem solving is a very constructive, rational thought process to help us deal effectively with a problem at hand.

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Cognitive Therapy and Challenging Negative Thoughts

When we’re feeling distressed about something or going through a difficult emotional experience it can feel like our thoughts are running out of control. Our minds start racing and we find ourselves dwelling in the past, worrying about the future, or just spinning our wheels trying to think ourelves out of our problems.

At times, our thoughts can become so powerful and consuming that it’s difficult to focus on anything else. Reading, being productive at work, or even just carrying on a conversation seems impossible. The thoughts become so persistent that nothing can distract us from them and nothing else can hold our attention, and it can feel like there isn’t anything we can do to slow down these thoughts or get some peace of mind.

Because it’s natural to want thoughts like these to go away and to have some control over what’s going on inside our heads, we often wind up trying to will these thoughts away and shut them out completely. But just like we can’t control our emotions, nor suppress our emotions, neither can we control or suppress our thoughts.

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Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Anxiety

upward spiralIn a previous post, we looked at the vicious cycle of anxiety, in which an anxiety-provoking events triggers an anxiety-related thought, feeling, behaviour or physiological symptom, which generates additional anxious thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physiological symptoms.
 
One of the keys to overcoming anxiety is break this cycle before it begins to gain momentum. We often don’t have control of our initial response to an anxiety-provoking situation, but once we become aware that something has triggered an anxiety-related thought, feeling, behaviour or physiological symptom, then we can choose how we react. Mindfulness, and congitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or cognitive therapy, are effective ways to help you stop these cycles before they can build.

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The Vicious Cycle of Anxiety

downward spiralAccording to the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach to anxiety, one of the reasons that overcoming anxiety can be so difficult is that anxiety generates vicious cycles involving your physiological, cognitive, behavioural, and emotional domains. We looked at these four components of anxiety in a previous post. Now we’ll look at how they act together to form vicious cycles that create and maintain anxiety.
 
In the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) model of anxiety, the vicious cycle begins with an anxiety-provoking situation. This situation can be something external such as a work commitment, a trip, a social engagement, or any other event happening in the future that you’re worried about. Anxiety can also be provoked by something internal such as a physiological sensation, a thought about something you’re dreading, or an unpleasant emotion.

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STOPP and Be Mindful

 
 

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety or distressing emotions, it can be diificult to know how to manage these feelings.

Often we allow our stress and anxiety and emotions to build and build all day without doing anything to calm them, trying to just ignore them and hoping they’ll go away. Then, when we finally can’t take it anymore and start feeling overwhelmed and desperate, things have often accumulated too much and begun to spiral downwards and it can be so hard to get any relief.

The more we allow stress and distressing emotions to accumulate, the more difficult they become to address. That’s why one of the keys to managing our feelings is to find ways to not let them build up so much in the first place.

One effective way to accomplish this is with an exercise called STOPP. STOPP is designed to help you stop stress and anxiety in their tracks, as soon as you begin to notice them, rather than waiting until they become overwhelming. Read More



Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Cognitve Therapy in Theory and Practice

cbtOn the main part of my webpage, I describe cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or cognitive therapy, as a type of therapy that focuses on the relationships and connections between our thoughts, feelings and actions. This sounds simple, but what does it mean? In this post, we’ll look at what’s behind cognitive behavioural therapy in a little more detail.

In the CBT/cognitive therapy model, we recognize that we are each affected by the environment in which we live. This environment involves both our current situations (family, friends, job, culture, various stressor and supports, etc.), as well as our past (our family history, past relationships, previous successes and failures, etc.).

Within our environment, there are four elements of ourselves that interact with each other: Read More



Core Beliefs in Cognitive Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are closely related. Our thoughts affect how we feel and what we do; our feelings affect the way we think and act; and our actions affect our thoughts and feelings. CBTFor instance, if we’re feeling anxious, we’ll think the worst is going to happen and act in ways to avoid doing anything that could provoke anxiety. If we’re feeling depressed, we tend to have very negative thoughts and withdraw from others, and these thoughts and behaviours make us even more depressed.

Cognitive therapy, also known as cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT, utilizes these relationship between your thoughts (also called cognitions), your actions (or behaviours) and your feelings or emotions. Because our thoughts, our feelings (or moods or emotions) and our actions (or behaviour) are so closely linked, making changes in any one of these areas tends to bring about changes in the others.

In cognitive therapy (CBT), we start by examining our patterns of thinking, recognizing how they are affecting our moods/emotions and our actions, and learning how to evaluate and adjust our thinking patterns, which in turn leads to changes in our moods and our behaviours.

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