Rumination and negative beliefs ruin your mental health
*** Newsflash ***
Not everyone believes there is a cure against depression and low mood. A correspondent kindly sent me this quote attributed to Stephen Fry:
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
“Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”
I am a great fan of Stephen Fry and as such I have time and respect for his opinion. But I have a fundamental disagreement with the first paragraph of his statement. It just seems too fatalistic. It seems to suggest that depression is what it is and that is all there is to it!
There are three fundamental reasons I can offer to disagree with Stephen’s quote:
Cure against depression and low mood: Many people overcome depression
Firstly, I have spent a considerable number of years helping people overcome depression and I have overwhelmingly found that following face to face CBT therapy people recover from depression. Indeed, this is so common that it is my expectation that recovery will occur and if for some reason it does not then I am surprised. This will give you an indication of the rate of success generally seen in practice.
Cure against depression and low mood: Computerized CBT cures depression
Secondly, it is even the case that computerised CBT (cCBT) programs like Blues Begone and Mood Control cure depression. It my recent posts and publications you may have seen the headline that 61% of users of Blues Begone are cured of depression without having any human therapist input.
Cure against depression and low mood: Rumination and self critical thought predicts depression
And thirdly, the BBC offered a slice of data that illustrates the role of thinking processes in the development, maintenance and relapse of depression. Collaborating with the University of Liverpool the BBC administered a questionnaire to a huge population sample of 32,827 people from 172 countries making it the biggest study of its kind ever undertaken in the UK.
Cure against depression and low mood: The BBC reported:
“We found that people who didn’t ruminate or blame themselves for their difficulties had much lower levels of depression and anxiety, even if they’d experienced many negative events in their lives”. “Dwelling on negative thoughts and self blame has previously been recognized as important when it comes to mental health, but not to the extent this study has shown.
“Rumination and self-blame have long been accepted by health professionals as part of the problems that can lead to depression and anxiety – the two most common mental health problems in the UK, according to the Mental Health Foundation.”
These findings suggest that rumination and self blame are both crucial psychological pathways to depression and anxiety. I acknowledge that rumination and self blame can become habits of thought and as such can take on a power that is hard to break. But it can be broken through challenge.
Everyone who has recovered from depression has challenged and broken free of the hold of negative thinking, self criticism and rumination. Although the habit of rumination needs to be carefully monitored and challenged whenever it rises up again.
There is nothing inevitable about rumination. Nor is there any force on earth that states ‘you must blame yourself’. These are things that we all do but it is the quantity and the sheer self destructiveness of the rumination and self blame that seem to be the tipping point into depression and anxiety.
These are processes that we can all learn to control and in so doing gain better control over our mental health.
I understand the reasons for the more fatalistic viewpoint with respect to mental health issues and that it may help remove some of the stigma associated with mental health problems. It reduces the power of the narrative that someone who suffers from depression is simply not trying hard enough to feel better or that depression is caused but not managing your psychology well enough. But if a client were to say to me ‘I am depressed and there is nothing that can be done about it’, I would say ‘let’s agree to keep an open mind about it and see if this turns out to be the case.’ Because most of the time it doesn’t.
Cure against depression and low mood: A friend is always a good thing
I agree that steadfast friendship is a restorative that is to be welcomed wherever it is found.
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