Mental tune-ups can beat the spiralling blues

Depression has been called the number one public health problem. It is so widespread that it is considered the common cold of psychiatric disturbances. At any one time, one in five adults feels depressed.

What is also depressing is that depression is hard to define, harder to predict, and still harder to treat. Most depressed people show diverse symptoms which could include fatigue, mood swings, low self-esteem, guilt, anger, irritability, eating, sleeping and sexual problems.

The sad truth is that there is a vast difference between depression and a common cold. Depression can kill.

The suicide rate, studies indicate, has increased in recent years, even among children and adolescents. According to WHO Suicide data, over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.

American psychiatrist Dr David Burns, who is also the author of a new book on depression, believes that while depression might be an illness, it can be overcome by learning some simple methods for mood elevation.

The background to this book is that a group of psychiatrists and psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have reported a significant breakthrough in the treatment and prevention of mood disorders.

These doctors were not satisfied with the traditional drug therapies used to treat depression because they found them to be slow and ineffective.

Instead they developed, and systematically tested, an entirely new approach to depression and other emotional disorders. And so, cognitive therapy has emerged as the latest way to treat some depressive patients.

A series of more recent studies confirms that these techniques reduce symptoms of depression more quickly than conventional psychotherapy or drug therapy.

Cognitive therapy is a fast-acting technology of mood modification that you can learn to apply on your own. Dr Burns has applied these and other principles in his book.

He believes that if you are depressed, the last thing you need is a prolonged therapeutic experience which would require many months or even years to work.

“You need to learn to eliminate the symptoms as rapidly as possible,” he says.

Cognitive therapy works by stopping the downward spiral of negative thoughts and reversing the way you feel. If you can think your way into feeling down, then you can certainly think your way into feeling better and more positive.

The two most important principles in this therapy involve are that the way you think determines the way you feel, and that distortions in thinking play a key role in causing and maintaining distressing feelings.

Your thought actually creates the emotion.

When you are feeling depressed, your thinking is clouded by dark and gloomy notions. You perceive not only yourself but the entire world in gloomy terms. What is even worse — you’ll come to believe things really are as bad as you imagine them to be.

You don’t have to be seriously depressed to benefit from these methods. We can all benefit from a mental tune-up from time to time. All it takes is a little time to learn how to take more control over your moods.