One in five Americans will at some point be laid low by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthless and lethargy
This state is quite different from normal sadness or grief, which are healthy reactions to a loss of some kind. It would feel strange not to experience sadness at the death of a loved one. Sadness brings with it a depth of human experience and new appreciation for all that we receive past, present and future.
While a loss might trigger depression, this second-most common form of mental illness is created and maintained by thought patterns, behaviors and structural changes in the body and brain. Chronic depression reduces the volume of the hippocampus, a structure associated with learning and with creating new memories. Depression is also associated with “recall bias” – selectively remembering one’s failures and defeats as opposed to having a complete and balanced view of one’s life to date. Depression often leads one to overestimate the effort required to make changes in one’s life today and to underestimate the likely satisfaction to be derived from making such changes. As a result depression leads to a closed-loop state of “learned helplessness” in which a person stops exerting any effort at all to get better. As many as one in ten chronically depressed people end their lives by suicide.
Happily, a drug-free, evidence-based path to healing lies right beneath the feet of any depressed person.
Cognitive tools help reset the self-defeating beliefs and distorted thought patterns that create and maintain this disorder. Behavioral tools allow patients to test their negative predictions about themselves and the future and support their accessing the motivation required to walk the path of healing. When formerly depressed patients look back on the depressionogenic “truths” they were telling themselves prior to recovery they shake their heads in disbelief that they could ever have taken such thinking seriously. It’s a wonderful moment when we can laugh together at such thoughts: when something strikes our funny bone it can no longer harm us.
Your next step
If you are feeling more hopelessness, worthlessness and loss of motivation than you care to experience please reach out to me today. I’ll look forward to the day, perhaps in the not-distant future, when we can laugh together at the beliefs and thought patterns that have been separating you from your natural state of joy, curiosity and initiative.