Bipolar Depression Treatment

July 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Depression

We’re going to look at bipolar depression treatments that you can explore if you are suffering with this illness. The good news is that there are many treatments available and they’re not just medications.

bipolar depression treatment

Bipolar Depression Treatment: What is Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is an illness in which the patient suffers  with manic and depressive episodes. It’s important that once diagnosed you persevere with bipolar depression treatment because this is a condition that you’ll have for life. It may take some trial and error to find what works for you. But when you get a treatment plan worked out that you’re happy with you will be able to get the disorder under control and enjoy your life once more.

Bipolar Depression Treatment: Diagnosis

It can take some time to get a correct diagnosis. Nina was 19 years old when she had her first manic episode.  She lost a lot of weight and barely slept as she felt she had some much energy. Her dress sense completely changed and she chose to wear much more daring clothes and engaged in reckless behaviour.

Her friends noticed the change in Nina and spoke to her parents who were also concerned. At first they wondered if she was taking drugs but she denied it. Not long after this episode Nina sank in to a huge depression. She comfort ate and put on all the weight she’d lost and a lot more. She agreed to see the doctor who initially diagnosed Nina with depression and put her on antidepressants. Nina seemed to improve and then she experienced another manic episode.

The fact that Nina experienced mania whilst taking antidepressants helped her GP make the correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Depression Treatment: In the media

If you watched ER you might well remember Sally Field’s character Nora who was battling with bipolar disorder. The programme did a lot to raise awareness of this disorder. However, Nora refused to take her medication which was Depakote and was seen experiencing extreme mood swings.

Luckily there are many more medications available than Depakote and lots of other treatments. So if like Nora you try something and don’t get on with it there are lots of other options.

Bipolar Depression Treatment: A treatment plan

Your complete treatment plan will likely consist of medication, therapy, knowledge of your illness, lifestyle changes, and establishing a support system.

Medication is essential to stabilise your mood whereas therapy can help you to deal with the way this disorder has affected your life. When Nina’s mood was under control with drugs she was mortified about her behaviour during her manic episodes. Through therapy she was able to repair her relationships with her friends and family and learn how to deal with her feelings.

Bipolar depression treatment

Nina actively sought information about bipolar disorder which she shared with her friends and family helping them to understand the illness. Through these means she gained a support system of people that she could turn to when she experienced set backs.

It’s important to make lifestyle changes which support your recovery. Nina used to keep very irregular hours often studying until the early hours of the morning and then lying in bed until noon. As part of her treatment plan she went to bed at a set time each night and got up at the same time each morning. Other lifestyle changes which are beneficial are to cut out alcohol and drugs.

Bipolar Depression Treatment: Types of therapy

Therapy is an important part of your treatment plan. Catherine Zeta Jones is an actress who has been very open about her bipolar disorder. When she left residential treatment she was reported as saying, “When you get sideswiped like that [by her husband’s illness], it’s an obvious trigger for your balance to be a little bit off – not sleeping, worry, stress. It’s a classic trigger. When Michael was diagnosed with cancer I really thought, ‘You are going to have to wipe me off the floor. This happens to people all the time, but it’s still a huge shock when the cards start to fall and you realize, ‘My God, it really is happening to us.’ “I thought I didn’t have the [emotional] tools to cope. But it’s amazing where the strength comes from – from family and friends, from strangers supporting us.”

Different people respond to different treatments. There’s a number of types of therapy which you can try and see which suits you best.

Family-focused therapy is a good way to work with your family so that they understand your disorder and can be a support system for you. Interpersonal therapy is another option. Interpersonal therapy focuses on relationship issues you may have with your friends and family and help you deal with them. Social rhythm therapy can help you to establish routines which support your illness such as regular eating, sleeping and exercise patterns.

bipolar depression treatment family support

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT therapy) is a talking therapy which helps you to challenge and change negative thoughts and behaviours. CBT therapy is something which you can work through with a therapist or you can select computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CCBT.) Mood Control and Blues Begone are two examples of Computerized CBT which you can undertake in your own home. CCBT can be a great self help choice if you want to begin therapy immediately or can’t afford to pay for therapy.

Bipolar Depression Treatment: Complementary therapies

If you are searching for alternative depression treatments for your bipolar disorder, there are complementary therapies that you can also incorporate in to your treatment plan if you find them helpful.

Acupuncture can help some people to reduce their symptoms of depression and mania. Meditation is a useful practice that helps you to become in tune with your body and to live within the present. Another useful therapy is light and dark therapy. It helps to regulate biological rhythms to restore sleep-wake cycles.

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Seeking an alternative depression treatment?

July 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Depression

What is an alternative depression treatment? Well in this case we’re looking at options that aren’t medication. Usually antidepressant meds are the first treatment plan people consider after finding out that they are suffering with depression.

alternative depression treatment running
Antidepressants have their place but with them come side effects. And if you only use antidepressants to treat your depression when you stop taking them you have a 60% chance of relapsing.

So what can you do? Consider alternative depression treatments as part of your assault on depression.

Alternative depression treatment: Lifestyle changes

For some, looking for alternative treatments for depression, lifestyle changes are all that’s required but they can also be an important part of an overall treatment program if your depression is more severe.


Spend a few minutes looking at your life and identifying causes of stress and consider how you might reduce this.

Mark’s depression became substantially worse after he took a new job. His manager seemed to dislike him immediately and bullied him almost from day one. Mark realised this was adding to his stress and depression so made a complaint to HR. They worked with Mark to try to improve the situation but he didn’t feel it was enough. Mark was lucky enough to find a new job where he worked with much nicer people who recognised his ability and were very supportive. By reducing stress in this area he found that his depression eased considerably and very quickly.


How well are you sleeping? Try to make sure that you are getting enough rest. You will find your symptoms are worse if you are trying to get by on less than 7 hours sleep a night.

alternative depression treatment sleeping

What is your diet like? In my experience people suffering with depression either comfort eat or don’t eat enough. Whilst fast food, chocolate and desserts may be really attractive try to ensure that you eat a balanced diet with plenty for fresh fruit and vegetables. And eat regularly. This will ensure that your sugar levels don’t dip and help to stabilise your mood.


Regular exercise is an important weapon in the fight against depression.  It’s a great alternative depression treatment because when you exercise it releases endorphins and boosts serotonin which make you feel happy. If you’re not used to exercise start with walking as walking is a great stress buster. Just 30 minutes a day is enough to make a difference to how you feel.

Brandon had started taking antidepressant meds when his father died. It coincided with a very stressful time in his life as Brandon was also studying for his law degree finals. His GP prescribed antidepressants for depression with the idea of helping Brandon to get through the exams. After his exams Brandon started seeing a psychologist. After a few months Brandon was keen to come off the antidepressant meds. He joined a gym and went five times a week really focusing on cardio. Brandon came to really enjoy running especially and when his 30 minutes were up he often kept going  for another 15-30 minutes. Under his doctor’s supervision Brandon was able to reduce and finally come off the antidepressants  without feeling his mood dip. Exercise continues to be a constant part of Brandon’s life and his depression has never returned.

Alternative Depression Treatment: Supplements

In addition to alternative depression treatments there are some natural treatments for depression which you can try. As far as supplements go St John’s Wort is probably the most well known. You can learn more in my natural treatments for depression article.


Alternative Depression Treatment: Complementary Therapies

If you’re seeking an alternative treatment for depression then complementary therapies such as homeopathy and acupuncture can also be helpful.

The way homeopathy works is to treat the whole person. Before prescribing a remedy a homeopath would consider your mental and bodily types along with your symptoms. There isn’t a one size fits all in homeopathy. One person with depression could get a different remedy  from another.

If you are taking antidepressants homeopathy had still be used in addition.

With acupuncture very fine needles are inserted in to the skin at specific points to unblock stagnant energy in the body. It’s a practice that has been used for many years in the East. Among other things Acupuncture can lift your mood and reduce stress.

Alternative Depression Treatment: Therapy

Those who seek therapy for depression have  around a 30% chance of relapsing within two years . If you only take antidepressant medication than your chance of relapsing within two years is around 60%. So I think you’ll agree that it’s worth exploring  therapy.

Why is this the case? Well, therapy helps you get to the root of your depression. Through therapy you can uncover the underlying cause.

There are different types of therapy you can try but Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT therapy is put forward by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as the psychological treatment of choice for mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

CBT therapy is a talking therapy that can help you challenge negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

I favour CBT therapy because it gives you, the patient, a greater knowledge and sense of control over the whole process.

Our feelings are not a good guide to reality in a lot of circumstances and in particularly when we have very negative beliefs and feelings about ourselves. If we don’t challenge these beliefs and feelings and change them they will continue to exert a powerful influence over us and they will distort and eventually ruin the course of our lives causing depression, for example.

CBT therapy is a good way to go about changing your thoughts and feelings.

Alternative Depression Treatment: Finding a therapist

Your GP should be able to refer to a good therapist or you can ask around and see if anyone has a therapist they recommend.

Sometimes you can’t access therapy as quickly or cheaply as you’d like. If you find that’s the case there are some online courses such as Mood Control which you can begin immediately.

There are also free CBT exercises on the internet which you can use to get you started.

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Men and Depression

June 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Depression

Men and Depression: How does depression affect men?

Below are three very different cases of men and depression or male depression:

• Bill has been married for 5 years. He works hard in a construction job. His friends at work think he is sociable, but private. When he comes home he starts drinking and does not stop until he falls asleep in front of the TV. Some nights he barely speaks to his wife. He never discusses how he feels.

• Geoff cannot raise the energy to do anything but watch TV. He is on disability allowance and sees no point in even trying to find work. He feels like a failure and is convinced nothing will ever change.

• Simon gets angry at the slightest problem. At work, he is known for being a perfectionist. Over the past year, he has started working harder and harder. He starts work at 7.30am and some nights does not come home until 8.00pm. He sometimes thinks he is only happy when he is working. A couple of weeks ago someone was less than enthusiastic about one of his ideas. He flew into a rage and was not able to calm down until a few days later.

depression can look like anger or upset

Depression can look like anger

These men are all suffering from depression. It is affecting them all differently, and so showing itself in different ways. Nevertheless, it is still depression!

 Men and Depression: Men do become depressed

Depression has often been thought of as an illness that only affects women. The truth is very different which is why this page focuses specifically on men and depression because men also get depression. For various reasons mental health professionals are often quite poor at picking-up male depression; perhaps because men show symptoms in different ways from women.

For a man, depression can be hard to recognize, especially if the concept of depression is foreign to him. When men are depressed, they often feel that they are not coping well enough or that they are not doing a good enough job. They tend to feel frustrated and angry, and sometimes drink or use drugs to unwind from work. Hypercritical of themselves and other people, they often feel like they are losing control.

Men and Depression: What makes men prone to depression?

It can be hard today being a man. The old certainties that anchored your grandparents and even your parents have largely vanished. You can no longer take it for granted that you will have a job for life. Nor can you take it for granted that you will remain in a mutually sustaining and fulfilling relationship. The overall divorce rate is currently between 30 – 50%. You may be unsure about the role you are now required to play in modern society. Perhaps even more troubling, you may be confused over how to conduct yourself in your day-to-day personal life. This confusion and complication can put strains on you that would be difficult to recognize and deal with, even if you knew how. Inner conflict negatively affects your quality of life, your relationships and your ability to enjoy pleasurable activities.

Men and Depression: Men and life change

Change is our constant companion. Inner conflict and confusion are natural psychological processes that everyone experiences. Indeed, relatively brief periods of psychic turmoil may even be useful, as long as the turmoil stops when the problem is resolved. Bigger problems, that involve a clash between your expectations of yourself as a man and the role society expects you to play, have more serious consequences, and can be harder to resolve without help. These conflicts have the possibility of being long drawn out and depressing. An ongoing problem without an obvious solution is depressing for everyone…not just men.

Men also get depressed

Men feel down as well as women

Much of the source of conflict that unsettles us comes from within. But every reaction is a combination of how you think about yourself and how you interpret the world in which you live. If you experience anger and irritability, especially towards people close to you, think about what the triggers for this might be, and why they make you feel this way.

Men and Depression: Men need to feel in control

As they grow up, boys are encouraged to think of themselves as being in control. They are rewarded for making practical things happen. A young boy is an active and even aggressive participant in his own upbringing. Most parents will acknowledge that boys require much more discipline than girls.

One consequence of this interaction between a young boy and his caregivers is that boys often feel they have a right to attention from whom ever is around them. They learn that if they demonstrate a need, they will eventually get attention. This holds true, irrespective of whether the upbringing was horrible or wonderful. Boys are treated as if their demands warrant attention (even if that attention is a beating).

Men and Depression: When we have low control

If we are made to feel that we have low control, or that our actions are ineffective, then these feelings can be very hard for men to tolerate. Situations such as stress at work, and problems that combine perceived low control with high expectations are particularly troublesome, as men gain a lot of their sense of self worth from their workplace activity. Times when men are out of work can be particularly difficult. The traditional role of breadwinner is deeply ingrained in the male psyche. Men seem to need both activity and structure to keep their sense of well being intact. When this combination is not present they are at risk of psychological problems.

Men and Depression: How do men express their emotional problems?

Men can have trouble expressing their emotions. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be that men do not easily recognize their emotions, certainly not with the ease that women can do. This carries a psychological as well as a physical toll. This is one reason that men suffer higher levels of cardiac heart disease, heart attacks and other serious life threatening illness and diseases. Growing up, men are encouraged, and even rewarded for not talking about times when they feel down, hurt, pain, feeling discouraged, feeling hopeless or feeling suicidal. Men generally have fewer outlets for emotions that come from negative aspects of living. This leaves them without ways of processing these events, so negative feelings may turn into chronic stress and depression. It is not surprising that men live shorter lives than women.

Recovery from depression takes a little effort

Recovery from depression takes a little effort

Men and Depression: The male role

Men often experience depression as feeling inferior, weak and small. Boys are encouraged to compete with others and to win. Men carry with them their childhood, and the urgings of their parents and teachers to do better, try harder and be successful. This burden of “I must succeed”, can be a terrible weight to carry. Human beings are truly remarkable in their capacity to internalize these messages and to make them a part of their future, despite their utility.

Men and Depression: Male sexuality

Male sexual ability is often intimately linked with a sense of self worth and success. Yet, the myth that the male must be ‘ever ready’ and be always able to perform sexually is nothing more than nonsense. If you are in a stressful job, you are tired, or you have had an argument with your partner your sexual response may be affected. If at times you cannot maintain an erection, don’t worry about it. Few erection problems are organic in nature and most are a response to stress or some other inner turmoil. The fact is that about half of men between the ages of 40 – 60 will periodically have trouble with their erections. But a man often interprets this in a personally threatening negative way. Indeed, it is relatively common for sexual problems to precipitate an episode of depression in a man. Because sexual ability and self esteem are so closely linked for many men, inability to perform for good reasons may lead a man to think even more catastrophic and depressing thoughts. Problems with sexual performance can be addressed using a little compassion and thoughtful insight into the causes and remedies of the problems you struggle with.

Accurate thinking is the antidote to faulty thinking

Accurate thinking is the antidote to faulty thinking

Men and Depression: How can men fight depression?

We have to start from the recognition that things are not right at the moment. Not because you are weak or at fault in any way, but because a number of psychological processes are conspiring to affect the way you think about things. This journey to unhappiness has taken some time and therefore it is reasonable to expect that recovery and well being will also take some time.

Men and Depression: Allow yourself the time to change how you feel

You have to give yourself a break and recognize that you cannot feel good again within a few hours or a day. It will take a little time and effort on your part. And this is the critical part of this. Men are used to taking control and making things happen. Depression often arises when Men have lost sight of what they need to do to solve this particular problem. Every problem has a solution and the solution to depression is in the activity you take to fight back from it.

Men and Depression: The three N’s of Active Self Help

Here is the key to fighting back from depression. This works particularly well for men as it is a process that can be done without necessarily having to see a therapist and without having to confide in people, if you don’t want to:

Men and Depression: First you NEED to recognize what the problem really is

Depression is a consequence not a cause. You are feeling depressed because you are engaged in faulty and unhelpful thinking processes. The process of faulty thinking makes you feel negative about yourself, it convinces that you have lost control over your life and it makes you feel a failure. Because it is faulty thinking it takes you to the wrong places. It leads you to draw the wrong conclusions about things. It leads you to misinterpret the meanings of things you thought you knew well.  Faulty and unhelpful thinking can be challenged and changed. All that is really needed is a decent life change strategy.

Men and Depression: Second you NEED to know what to do about this faulty thinking process

You are not alone in your depression, the fact is there are millions of people both men and women who have traveled this path before you. There is a very good road map that can take you out of depression and back to well being. It simply needs to be followed.  There is an alternative, however,  but not a very appealing one. This is to wait for the depression to pass naturally. Most depression passes within about 18 months. The problem is that if you don’t deal with it appropriately this time you are very vulnerable to a recurrence in the not too distant future.

Depression tells you nothing but lies about yourself. If you don’t challenge the lies you come to believe them and once you fully believe a lot of lies the truth finds it harder and harder to retain a foothold in your mind.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in the form of computer based cognitive behavioral therapy (cCBT) is a great way of remaining private but getting all the tools you need to fight back from depression.

Men can recover from depression

Men can recover from depression

Men and Depression: Third you NEED to engage with a form of computerized CBT therapy

Start a structured cCBT course and follow the path it lays out for you. Look this is quite simple. If you follow a course of computerized CBT you will start to feel better and your recovery will be more in your control. For many men this is all the treatment needed. Alternatively you can wait it out but the cost in terms of family, career and your own long term well being is high.

 Men and depression – start your recovery here

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Clinical depression treatments: Your soul has a cold (Kokoro no Kaze)

April 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Depression

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Clinical depression treatments vary tremendously depending on where you live. This comes from the fact that attitudes to depression can be very different across the globe.

Japan traditionally suffered twice the suicide rate of the USA. However, talking about depression in Japan had always been a very different matter from talking about it in Western countries. In our language, the word for depression is interchangeable with dips in landscape, economy or mood. But in Japanese the word for depression (utsubyo) was used only to describe major depressive disorders and/or mania. Indeed it was seldom heard outside psychiatric circles.

In Japan, to talk about or express feelings, people relied on the word ki or ”vital energy.” When describing low mood people might use the word ‘Ki’ and couple it with expressions of sadness because their Ki was sluggish, blocked or leaking.

Moreover there had always been a keep it to yourself (KITY) social norm in Japan where there was merit in not burdening others with your problems. And for both cultural and religious reasons people with mental health problems like depression were likely to suffer stigmatization, in addition, to the burden of their psychological problem.

Traditionally the major pharmaceutical companies had bypassed Japan when marketing anti depressants because there was not a disorder of depression recognized in Japan to treat and therefore no market for antidepressants. Until that is a new phrase was coined that linked the traditional Japanese notion of Ki and low mood. Kokoro no kaze (your soul has a cold)

Clinical depression treatments: Your soul has a cold

The effect of this clever combination of traditional word and understanding coupled with the new way to talking about something that was an unspoken problem for Japanese society started slowly but with gathering pace to change the status of depression. Depression became defined as a ‘real’ problem. And real problems have real solutions!

Clinical depression treatments: Antidepressant meds

So far so good. The problem I have with this story is not that depression in Japan was under reported and under treated, I think that is self evident.  And clearly the changing force needed to bring this problem into awareness against a strong and established cultural norm was very substantial. All of that I believe was to the common good. No, the problem I have with this overall approach is that in Japan depression has been characterized as an entirely biological problem that is therefore can only be solved by the use of antidepressant drugs.

Clinical depression treatments:  How the Japanese viewed low mood

To put the problem into an historical context the traditional way of thinking about suffering in Japan may shed some light on why depression was never considered a disease. ‘Melancholia, sensitivity, fragility were not considered to be negative experiences for Japanese hence they were not considered to be problems in need to a solution. They were not considered bad in and of themselves.

Clinical depression treatments: The medical model of depression

In contrast the medical model of depression categorizes suffering as pathological and a problem that requires an intervention. Normally this is a pill. It is the case that the treatment of diseases in more easily understood and funded by health insurance companies and national health agencies and of course the classification of something as a disease helps remove some of the potential for stigmatization. But it also creates a market for the solution where previously none existed. Some critics of this approach have argued that it leads to the pathologisation of normal emotion; the tipping point where moods become medical problems and as such it turns normal human experiences into commodities to be managed.

Clinical depression treatments: A Little history

Eli Lilly had decided in the late 1980s against selling Prozac into Japan as there was virtually no demand for antidepressant meds. Even though throughout the western world Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRI’s were becoming a virtual cultural phenomena – the antidepressant era!

In 1999, Meiji Seika Kaisha a Japanese company began selling the SSR Depromel. Meiji was among the first users of the phrase kokoro no kaze.

The following year, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) the maker of the antidepressant Paxil joined Meiji by entering the Japanese market.  At this point people did not realize they were suffering from a disease and so GSK put substantial effort into the re-education of the normal Japanese doctor. GSK created a simply message: ”Depression is a disease that anyone can get. It can be cured by medicine. Early detection is important.”

In the early 2000s GSK sent 1,350 Paxil-promoting representatives to visit doctors on average of twice a week. With additional campaigns to teach GPs and their patients about the symptoms of depression: ”head feels heavy, cannot sleep, stiff shoulders, backache, tired and lazy, no appetite, not intrigued, feel depressed.”

Clinical depression treatments: Recognition of depression is useful

I have to acknowledge that recognition of depression is better than not recognising it. Depression is a problem that causes untold misery. Even today in Japan data suggest that 6.6% of Japanese have depression.

Clinical depression treatments: Depression is a psychological problem

To promote depression as a solely biological problem is to tell an incomplete story. As a psychologist I am not a dispassionate observer of the capture of  depression by the medical establishment. I treat depression every working day and most of the time my clients never use antidepressant meds. Therefore my experience of clinical depression treatments shows me that depression is more than adequately treated by psychological therapy and probably best by CBT Therapy.  Nevertheless most psychological therapies are likely to have value as depression treatments.

I cannot blame the pharmaceutical companies for doing what they do which is to sell pharmaceuticals. And I know it is a common meme to bash the multi national drug companies. I can see they do a lot of good in many areas. If you have malaria you should take an anti malarial medication. But if you have a psychological problem that is better treated by a psychological therapy than a drug treatment then I have an issue with the bias in the message. That’s all.

The moral question is this: are we only consumers or human beings who can also consume? To assert and promote that depression is only a biological problem without also stating that it is a psychological problem is obviously good business for pharmaceutical companies but it is ultimately misleading and I think in the end immoral. If there are better depression treatments even though they cannot be packaged and sold by pharmaceutical companies they have an obligation to inform the public because that is a morally good act. I don’t observe this happening right now. How have we sleep walked to this place in the world where the pursuit of commercial advantage and money takes precedence over honesty, integrity and the common good?

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Attacking anxiety and depression: Correcting faulty thinking part 5

April 24, 2013 by  
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Conclusion Jumping

This is the final article in our attacking anxiety and depression: correcting faulty thinking series which has so far looked at how the brain works and thinking develops, how and why your brain makes errors and the consequences of faulty thinking, and how the depressed brain makes more errors than normal.

Any time you draw a conclusion, make a decision, statement, judgment or interpretation that is ‘black or white’, ‘all or nothing’ or that is ‘overly negative’, even ‘catastrophic’ and thereby leads to you feeling down, can be labelled as Conclusion Jumping.

This can be likened to looking down a telescope or tube at something. When you do this you only ever see a fraction of what could be seen. Conclusion Jumping limits your available options because it prevents you from perceiving everything that is really out there.

Examples of Conclusion Jumping are:

  • If I am not the best, I am a failure.
  • I have to do everything to the best of my ability, or there is no point   in even trying.
  • People never change
  • Life is ruined
  • Men/Women are all the same
  • If I cannot change by tomorrow there is no point in trying
  • Really creative people do not need to try very hard
  • If I do not get this job, that is it, I will never work again
  • Nothing can help me
  • I might have died, next time I will
  • You are my friend or you are my enemy

Attacking anxiety and depression: Talking Down

When you think or speak of yourself or other people in a negative way, when you use should or must as absolute instructions or when you use emotions as a guide to reality, then that is ‘Talking Down’.

Using language in any way that detracts from your worth or the worth of someone else is an example of ‘Talking Down’. Talking Down is very damaging to your well being.

Once Talking Down starts it rapidly establishes itself as an automatic habit pattern that pervades every aspect of your mental activity.

Examples of ‘Talking Down’ are:

  • I should be a better father
  • I should be well by now
  • I am ugly
  • I am not worth anything
  • People like that are useless
  • I do not matter
  • I am failing as a mother
  • I should not let it all get to me as much as it does

Attacking anxiety and depression: Why it is worth challenging faulty thinking

In general the fact that the brain uses short cuts to reduce energy and processing time is not the problem, most of the time your brain gets it more or less right.

Nevertheless, errors do happen and it is when you do not recognise or challenge the errors that they quickly become automatic. This is when short cut errors lead to faulty thinking. Faulty thinking is a major factor in the development and maintenance of all psychological problems and especially in depression.

If you put effort into recognising and challenging faulty thinking you gain a valuable tool for taking control over your low mood. For this to happen it is necessary to turn automatic processes once again into conscious processes. This requires practise and constant attention on what you think, say and do, coupled with a willingness to recognise that some brain processes will need to be re-trained to ensure your well being.

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Attacking anxiety and depression: Correcting faulty thinking part 4

April 22, 2013 by  
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The depressed brain makes more errors

The attacking anxiety and depression: correcting faulty thinking series has so far looked at how the brain works and thinking develops, how and why your brain makes errors and the consequences of faulty thinking. In part four we’re going to look at how the depressed brain makes more errors than normal.

Much of our understanding of Active Self Help for depression and anxiety  is derived from research showing that people who suffer from depression make many more shortcut errors.

This research has shown that when mood is low the brain recognises negative sounding words such as (gloom, sad, pain) faster than positive words such as (happy, glad, smile). This demonstrable fact has been shown time and time again.

This illustrates that the brain of a depressed person has learned to accept depressing information into the system more readily than positive information. This is one of the damaging things that acts to keep your mood low.

The most damaging aspect of shortcut errors is that when you generate your own negative thoughts about yourself, they are not usually recognised as short cut errors and are processed faster than other kinds of thoughts.

The sheer repetition of your negative thoughts about yourself has turned them into Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs). They were originally created as shortcut errors but now are out of your conscious control. They are automatic and because of this are deadly.

Attacking anxiety and depression:  The summary so far

  • Your brain constantly works to understand the world
  • Your senses take in information from the surrounding world and pass that information to your brain
  • Your brain interprets this information in habitual ways (short cuts), saving time and energy
  • Brain short cuts that go wrong can lead to the wrong understanding or interpretation of events
  • Negative thoughts are always a consequence of faulty thinking
  • Shortcut errors quickly become automatic

Attacking anxiety and depression:   How you can recognize shortcut errors

Here are some pointers you can learn that always indicate brain shortcut errors have happened. Shortcut errors always:

  • Lead to inaccurate negative thoughts
  • Distort reality
  • Lead to you to feeling negative about yourself
  • Lead to self destructive thinking

If you ever experience any of these kinds of problems, you can be quite sure that a short cut error has triggered faulty thinking. If a program on your home computer were working badly you would take one of a number of steps to rectify the problem. You must now start to rectify the shortcut errors that are causing your brain to constantly lead you into faulty thinking.

There are three classes of faulty thinking that we would like you to become aware of. We have labeled these as Mind reading, Conclusion Jumping and Talking Down. Here are some examples. We will also give you a training task to give you practice recognising these faulty thinking errors.

Attacking anxiety and depression:  Mindreading

Mindreading is very damaging because it leads you to assume you know something that you could not possibly know. It leads you act as if you have a mind reader’s crystal ball; to believe you can see into the mind and know the intentions of another person without any words at all being spoken. Below are examples of Mindreading:

  • He/she thinks I am a failure;
  • Everyone can see how stressed I am;
  • If I talk to him/her they will see right through me;
  • They know I am a fraud;
  • People can see I am useless;
  • If I attempt it everyone will see how nervous I am;
  • I am an open book.

You know Mindreading is happening if: you believe you know something you could not possibly know.

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Attacking anxiety and depression: Correcting faulty thinking part 3

April 19, 2013 by  
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The consequences of faulty thinking

So far in the attacking anxiety and depression: correcting faulty thinking series we’ve looked at how the brain works and thinking develops and how and why your brain makes errors. In part three I’d like to focus on the consequences of faulty thinking – how this affects you.


Attacking anxiety and depression:  What are the consequences of faulty thinking?

When the short cuts your brain makes go wrong, you are left with the wrong interpretation or understanding of something. Imagine the experience of seeing someone from behind, being convinced it is someone you know.

You tap them on the shoulder and it turns out to be a stranger. That is an example of a short cut error that could be called faulty thinking. In this example you jumped to a conclusion without enough information to be fully sure you knew the person. If this has happened to you there is not likely any harm done, it was a mistake.

Sadly, many human error disasters and accidents can be wholly attributed to short cut errors. The human brain often misjudges the distances between things, miscalculates the speed of something, hears what it expects to hear and interprets something in an habitual way.

In fact it jumps to conclusions,  it sees what it expects to see, it hears what it expects to hear and is imagines things that have not happened. All of these are based on scanty information and the application of rules that are no longer valid.

Sometimes faulty thinking can have catastrophic effects. And the same principles that underlie the faulty thinking in disaster or accident situations also happen in everyday life and can lead to very serious problems;  leaving you dealing with depression and anxiety.

Attacking anxiety and depression:  How faulty thinking creates psychological problems

You are equipped with the ability to be self-critical. Depending upon your life experiences up to this point, your ability to be self critical will be more or less developed. For many people it will be highly developed. But be under no illusion, everyone is critical about themselves to some degree.

If you experience times in your life when you are overloaded, stressed, burdened, confused, tired, unsure or unstable, then your self critical capacity is increased. At the same time your brain is probably working hard to manage the problems you perceive in your life. This is when short cut errors become highly dangerous.


When your brain makes a shortcut error and the outcome is negative, self destructive, depressing or fear inducing, you may not recognize it as a short cut error. You may accept it as a fact. This increases unpleasant negative emotions and depresses your mood further. Remember: if an error has happened once it is more likely to happen again. The next time your brain makes a short cut error you again accept it as fact. And so this continues until the shortcut error is automatic. You no longer question it.

The process can repeat itself many times with many forms of shortcut error. Your job now is to recognize short cut errors and bring them once again under conscious control; because only by bringing them under conscious control can you rectify them.

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Attacking anxiety and depression: Correcting faulty thinking part 2

April 18, 2013 by  
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Brain Processing Errors

In part one of attacking anxiety and depression: correcting faulty thinking I talked to you a little about how your brain works so that you could understand how thinking develops. In part two I’d like to tell about how and why your brain makes errors and what that means for your mental health.


Attacking anxiety and depression: How your brain works

Firstly, I should point out that your brain works very well indeed. However, in any system that has to manage the vast amounts of data your brain does, there will always be the possibility of error. The study of brain processing errors is a whole field of research that helps us better understand how the brain works. Many common errors seem to be the result of the brain using an inappropriate short cut. Which means the brain applies a strategy or rules it has used before thereby not having to fully process something. This leads to what we have called shortcut errors.

Attacking anxiety and depression: Brain short cut errors

The real problem with these errors is not so much that errors exist, but that you do not recognise them as errors.
Remember the effect of learning and repetition which we talked about in part one? Well, if an error occurs and it is not recognised it becomes easier to make the same error again; and after 50 errors it is automatic.

Sometimes this really does not matter very much. Suppose you acquired the habit of never eating green vegetables as a child because you mistakenly believed they were poisonous. It is now automatic. You never eat them. It is probably not going to hurt you much.

But suppose you acquired the habit of thinking of yourself as stupid. If you have thought it 50 times or more it is likely to be automatic. Lack of green vegetables will not stop you from achieving your life goals; thinking of yourself as stupid probably will. Both are examples of shortcut errors we have called faulty thinking.

Attacking anxiety and depression: The Muller Lyer Illusion

muller lyer illusion
Look at this picture. It is called a Muller Lyer illusion. Can you decide which of the horizontal lines is the longer, the one on the left or the one on the right?

This illusion is one of many tools that is used to study brain shortcut errors. Actually the horizontal lines are both the same length. But the way the diagonal lines are arranged fools your brain into thinking that the line on the right is shorter and the line on the left is longer. Feel free to measure them with a ruler is you feel the need.

The fact that your brain can make short cut errors may seem strange to you; if so, you can now see why you may have never corrected the errors. The fact is you would not recognise any thought or belief as an error unless you were shown how to see it in the first place. This is what we will do in part three.

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Attacking anxiety and depression: Correcting faulty thinking

April 17, 2013 by  
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When we’re looking at attacking anxiety and depression we need to focus on correcting our faulty thinking. To do that it’s useful to understand firstly, how your brain works and thinking develops.

Your brain fulfills a huge number of functions that are necessary for life. The majority of these functions are out of your conscious awareness; such as the level of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream, the maintenance of your blood pressure or the process of digestion.

Other functions are mostly out of awareness but can be brought into awareness if you put effort into doing so; such as: chewing food, what it feels like to sit on a seat or how to write your signature. Pervasive and deadly characteristics of depression are often out of conscious awareness, but need to be brought into awareness so that they can be controlled and ultimately changed.

Attacking anxiety and depression: Most brain processes are automatic

It can be quite useful to think of the brain as if it were a computer; if we do that, it is easy to recognize that the brain is the most complex ‘computer’ in existence.

It has the function of processing the raw data that is constantly arriving from your senses. It then has to make sense of this data and, where necessary, organise an appropriate response. Fully 99.9% of brain processes are automatic. For most things you do not need to make any conscious decisions. Your brain just takes care of it.

As examples of complex human activity that are largely automatic, consider how much thought you might typically put into everyday driving to and from work.How much thought you put into an everyday conversation and how much conscious thought is needed to read a newspaper.

Almost everything that you do, say, or think incorporates a large amount of automatic brain processing! It has to. Any computer built by human hand would grind to a halt in moments if it had to do everything that a human brain does, continually for a lifetime without a break. Even sleep is filled with brain activity.

No one likes making the same mistakes over again

One way the brain attempts to cut down on processing need, thereby making processes more efficient, is to avoid repeating things that it has done before. The marvel of the human brain is its raw capacity to learn from experience.

Do something only once and the next time you will find it easier. Do it 10 times and it will be almost automatic. Do it 50 times and you may not even be aware of doing it.

Repetition leads to learning. Learning leads to automation.

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