Dealing With Depression
Using Cognitive Therapy


Dealing With Depression Using Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy (CT) can be effective when dealing with depression.

Effectiveness of cognitive therapy

Studies have shown that CT can be as effective as antidepressant drugs in treating depression, especially moderate depression [1]. For example, in a 1999 randomized controlled study, CT was found to be as effective as a powerful monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), and twice as effective as a placebo. [2]

In general, studies show that cognitive therapy can bring about sustained complete recovery in 30% to 40% of depression patients who participated, and a substantial reduction in symptoms for another 25%. These outcomes are comparable to the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs, with the additional advantages of being more sustained and less side effects causing. [3]

Since CT teaches patients new skills for dealing with depression, CT has also been found to be effective for preventing depression relapses. In fact, relapse rate for cognitive therapy is lower than that of antidepressant drugs. [1].

A 3-year study by Jarrett and team found that just 10 sessions of CT during the 8 months after recovery from depression reduced relapse rate by about half, as compared to a control group. [2]

How cognitive therapy works

CT for dealing with depression involves two main aspects:

  • help one become aware of the negative thoughts and assumptions that make or keep the individual depressed

  • systematically challenge and replace these negative thoughts and assumptions with more reasonable and constructive ones

Underlying basis for cognitive therapy

Cognitive therapists explain that in our formative years, there are times when we form maladaptive assumptions (i.e negative or even self-destructive beliefs) about ourselves or the world.

These negative assumptions (e.g. I can’t be happy unless everybody likes me, I must be outstanding to be accepted by others, etc) may have been developed unconsciously, and they can become so ingrained in us that we often forget that they exist. The maladaptive assumptions then give rise to the automatic negative thoughts that we form, often without realizing.

Hence, it is not surprising that in some instances, we actually “flung some soul-withering epithet at ourselves”, “accuse ourselves without benefit of legal counsel of some repugnant sin”, or “swallowed blindly some dark vision of doom and gloom” [2]. Understandably, these instances are probably more frequent among depressed than healthy individuals.

Self-help cognitive therapy

To start off the process of cognitive therapy for an individual dealing with depression, he (or she) is encouraged to write down the negative thoughts that plague his life.

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