Can You Cure Depression Without Pills? All-or-Nothing Thinking

“I never do anything right.”  “Everyone is always talking about me behind my back.”  “Every time my kids scream, I lose my temper.”

Using words like ‘never’, ‘always’, and ‘every’ are examples of all-or-nothing thinking, one of ten so-called ‘cognitive distortions’ used in a well-studied treatment for depression – Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

It’s a mouthful, but CBT is essentially a technique based on first changing your thought patterns and habits, which will then change your mood and your behavior.

Depression is a touchy subject, particularly among women.  It is many times more common than thought, and very under treated.  Really, who wants to admit being either crazy with a ‘mental’ illness, or even worse, they can’t keep up with the super achieving schedule they’ve set for their life?

In medical school, that whole side of it is ignored, and depression is treated as simply another illness with damaging effects on a patient’s life, the most severe being death, in the form of suicide.  Of course, like much of modern health, the typical answer comes in the form of pills, and therapy is given a perfunctory nod.  Doctors all know the modern patient is just too busy to lay on a couch and talk about repressed memories of childhood, so just give them a pill, they’re good at taking those.

Cognitive behavior therapy is an effective alternative and can be used alone or in conjunction with medications.

I ran into an apathetic-type of depression during pregnancy, and occasionally, as my husband kindly notes, during ‘that time of the month.’  It’s always fun to hear others ask, “Why can’t you just think positive?” or “How can you be depressed?  Look at how great your life is?”  It isn’t like the same questions aren’t running through my own mind.

Then I found a great book (which is how I learn most of my odd hobbies) called Feeling Good by David Burns.  It’s packed with great info, techniques, and exercises, that teach you exactly how you can combat depression.  In fact, a series of studies was done following a group of 80 patients, randomly assigned to either read or not read the book Feeling Good within four weeks.  They weren’t even asked to do any exercises in the book, just to read it and do what they felt like doing. 

At the end of four weeks, 70 percent of the reading group had dropped their depression scores from a 20 average to a 10, which no longer qualifies as ‘depressed.’  Three months later, 75% no longer qualified as depressed, and a three-year follow-up showed 72% as no longer depressed.  These results are as effective as the most often prescribed anti-depressants and even the standard 12-week session with a trained cognitive behavior therapist.  Plus, there is a much lower drop-out rate and a very small relapse rate.  Ok, for you thrifty moms out there – this is all from reading an $8 book in a month’s time!  That’s cheaper than your co-pay!

(Your library should have the book, or click through to Amazon from here , to support this site)

So, if you’re too busy to read the book, you can get it in little snippets from me.  The first step is to learn to recognize the ten cognitive distortions, or ways your thoughts are ‘messed up’.

So, pick a time you felt a bit ‘down’ recently, and write down what was running through your mind.  Since you only know one cognitive distortion so far, it’ll have to be a phrase with the words ‘never’, ‘always’, or ‘every’ in them.  Really, get a piece of paper right now (or a Word document for the techies) and write a thought down.  Next to it, write ‘all-or-nothing’.  And finally, in a few words write why that is not true, or is distorted thinking.

Thinking:  “I never do anything right.”

Cognitive Distortion:  All-or-nothing

Response:  I wrote a pretty good post on  I helped a friend make name tags for vacation bible school on the computer. I fed my kids french toast for dinner AND used whole wheat bread! etc. etc.

Now it’s your turn – enjoy!


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