Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy

This book is the source of the depression and anxiety tests as well as the cognitive behavior therapy ideas that I am going to be talking about on this blog for the next few days. If you scored higher than you'd like on the depression checklist, I highly recommend that you buy this book - it goes into far more detail about how to improve your thinking habits and therefore your mood than I could ever do on a blog. If you're not sure you want to own it, you can borrow mine, or check it out at the library. This book is seriously a must read if you want to explore a non-medication approach to dealing with depression and/or anxiety and improving your quality of life.

On second thought, you can't borrow my copy. I need to re-read it again and apply its lessons in my own life.

So, you've taken the tests. You didn't like your scores. What now?

From the book:

"Because depression has been viewed as an emotional disorder throughout the history of psychiatry, therapists from most schools of thought place a strong emphasis on "getting in touch" with your feelings. Our research reveals the unexpected: Depression is not an emotional disorder at all! The sudden change in the way you feel is of no more causal relevance than a runny nose is when you have a cold. Every bad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking. Illogical pessimistic attitudes play the central role in the development and continuation of all your symptoms."

In English: depressive emotions are caused by negative thoughts. Most of these thoughts are learned habits that are so ingrained that we don't even notice we're thinking them, and so we go on unaware that we are sabotaging our emotions by our own bad habits of thinking.

"Your emotions result entirely from the way you look at things. It is an obvious neurological fact that before you can experience any event, you must process it with your mind and give it meaning. You must understand what is happening to you before you can feel it. If your understanding of what is happening is accurate, your emotions will be normal. If your perception is twisted and distorted in some way, your emotional response will be abnormal. Depression falls into this category. It is always the result of mental distortions."

Translation: You interpret events in your life with a series of thoughts that continually flow through your mind. This is called your internal dialogue, or self-talk. If you interpret an event in a distorted way, you create an illusion that will make it impossible to see things as they really are. Your feelings are created by your thoughts and not the actual events; illogical and distorted thoughts produce the negative set of emotions that we call "depression". These unhealthy ways of thinking are called Cognitive Distortions, and everyone who exhibits symptoms of depression has a nice little collection of them. You may think you don't. Wait and see.

Here's a the list of Cognitive Distortions. We'll spend some time with each one in detail in future posts.

  1. ALL OR NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance in one area falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  2. OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that colors the entire beaker of water.
  4. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  5. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
  6. MAGNIFICATION OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other person's imperfections). This is also called the "binocular trick."
  7. EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."
  8. SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn'ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. "Musts" and "oughts" are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
  9. LABELING AND MISLABELING: Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: "What a jerk!" Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  10. PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.

How's that for giving you a lick of the lollipop?

Don't want to wait for me to explain them all? Get your own copy of Feeling Good.


  1. ya, I need the book. All of these relate to me. I am hoping to change them but the one I am the most worried about is #7. I know this is saying my reality is warped but what if everyone elses reality of me is warped and mine is the only true one. Who is this guy to say I am really worth something when he doesn't even know me. Maybe the reality is I AM a freak. Holy cow. I can't believe I am posting this. Okay, I need the book. I think I better not post anymore until I read the book. I am just feeding myself with excuses. I just need to be productive and change it. That is how I have dealt with it all this time is just being productive (in other ways) and now I know it needs fixing and I NEED THE BOOK!!! What if I don't fix it? Okay...oversharing. For all you who don't know me, I am less disfunctional in person. Ask Lisa. Ask Jessica. Okay, sounding crazier by the minute I'm pressing publish now.

  2. LOL! I hope you meant that to be funny, because you are hilarious.

    Testimonial: Amidey is most decidedly NOT dysfunctional in person. Amidey is very capable, talented, funny, and extremely likeable, both in person and in print.

    And I think she needs the book. :P

  3. Okey-dokey, this is a cross-comment-thread comment... (hopefully that's semi-understandable), but my score on the depression questionnaire was 15.

    That doesn't sound bad, right? Except it was profoundly disturbing to me that some of the feelings in the questionnaire seemed so... normal. I've always struggled with those feelings, even when I'm not depressed - and I know from depressed.

    For example (Lisa, this will probably make you wince), last week I caught myself thinking, "You're so lazy. Look at all the stuff Bok does - I call you bok in my head - like raising chickens and blogging, why can't you get it together and be more like that?"

    Ouch. When it's written out like that, even I can tell how wrong-headed it is. Digging up that book now...

    (And I just made your peasant pasta tonight. Oh. My. Goodness. It was fantastic.)

  4. That's one of the most important things we can do to fix our thinking - write it down. When we see it in black and white, it's easy to see how illogical those thoughts are.

    Additionally, how would you feel if you overheard a parent saying that to one of their children, comparing a girl to her sister? We know that comparing kids to one another is not an effective motivator, and yet we don't think twice about doing it to ourselves!

    Excellent example of a couple of different cognitive distortions. Thanks for being brave enough to share.

    BTW - "lazy bum" is one of my favorite labels for myself. Sad, huh?

    And I'm glad you liked the pasta. :D

  5. Oh and Di, maybe I should blog about all the things I don't do that really need doing. Or maybe Tom can get on here and share how he irons his own dang bishop-white-shirts half the time because I forgot to them because I was blogging.

    Will that make you feel better?

  6. Lisa, you rock. :)