Thursday, November 20, 2008

Learn to Recognize Irrational Thoughts

Studies show that people who are depressed often have irrational thoughts. Irrational thoughts can cause depression, like the belief that you have to be perfect. Logic states that being perfect is impossible, so striving for an impossible goal can only cause failure.

Depression can also cause irrational thoughts and reactions. For example, if you are at home on a Friday night and no one calls, a logical thought is, "My friends are busy. Maybe I should call them." A depressed person in the same situation may think irrationally, "No one has called because no one likes me. I'm never going to go out ever again."

Learning to recognize irrational thoughts is critical in fighting depression and trying to return to a normal life and healthy state of mind. Recognizing thoughts that cause depression is the first step in changing those thoughts. For example, a person who believes she has to be perfect might set one or two reasonably accomplishable goals and say, "I know I can't be perfect in all things, but I can be perfect in these few things that I think are most important, and that will be enough for me to be happy with myself."

Recognizing irrational thoughts that are caused by depression is a good way to dismiss them instead of accepting them as fact. Some good warning signs of irrational thoughts are when you find yourself using absolute terms like: never, no one, always, only, every, etc. For example, "No one likes me," and "I'm never going to get it right." Also, one should be wary of any self-degrading thoughts such as, "I'm a bad person." Those kind of thoughts are almost always irrational.

Fighting irrational thoughts caused by depression may be a matter of countering them with positive thoughts, avoiding thinking entirely, or trying to pinpoint and resolve the source of those thoughts. When you're in a good mood you can write down a list of the things you like about yourself or the things you are successful at. Post this list in a place you can see it when you're depressed. If you can't think of anything you like about yourself, you can ask friends or family members to write down a list of things they like about you and post that instead. Another idea for fighting irrational thoughts is to take your mind off of what's bothering you entirely. You can do this by reading a book, watching television, calling a friend and listening to what their day has been like, or engaging yourself in some other activity that keeps your brain too busy to think of other nasty things to say. The hardest but possibly most rewarding technique for fighting irrational thoughts is to track down their source and resolve them there. For example, women who irrationally think they are unattractive can probably track the source of this belief to all the videos, magazines, and people who have told them, "An attractive woman is slim, well-endowed, with flawless skin, hair and makeup." I don't really know what to do about resolving this problem. Perhaps you can use the same solution from a previous example and decide, "I'm going to set my goals to have a healthy weight, my hair done, and my makeup done every day. If I reach those three goals then I will consider myself attractive."

Let me be clear on one thing, though: DO NOT MAKE MAJOR DECISIONS WHEN YOU'RE THINKING IRRATIONALLY. This may include but is not limited to ending or beginning major relationships, harming yourself or others, quitting a job or school, moving, etc. If you feel the need to make a major decision, check it with someone who is thinking rationally and has a good track record for making good decisions.


Shay said...

I'm really good with coping by hiding behind a book or facebook or some other thing that prevents me of thinking evilly about myself. My problem is that I'm so good at it, I never come out. I can hide or "cope" so well and so long that months have past by and I haven't done anything but read. Or whatever it was I was hiding behind. My only question is...

How do you get out of it??

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