Positive Thinking: Not A Cure for Severe Depression
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“How Positive Thinking Drives You Into Depression” provides a new perspective on the concept of positive thinking and depression, which calls into question the notion that just "thinking positive thoughts" can cure depression. The subject of this article raises the question of why people believe that thinking positive will solve depressive disorders, and some believe that depressive symptom management has nothing to do with positive thinking. TJ Nelson says that “The problem has to do with a misunderstanding of depression. Most people think that depression is a matter of cognition. It is all “in your head.” And if you are depressed and believe that, you are in for a long frustrating ride. If depression isn’t caused by your thoughts than what causes it?”
Nelson shared his first hand experience of anxiety and depression, where he found that there was one a book that did not helped him when he was suffering from severe depression. He believes that when a person is in these depressive states, CBT, a book, or positive thinking are not only unhelpful, but they can actually make the symptoms worse. Nelson explains that, “The problem is that the book was useless when I was suffering from severe anxiety and depression. I’m not knocking cognitive therapy. It’s highly effective–as long as a person’s prefrontal cortex is working. But when your body aches, you can’t eat or sleep, and you wonder how you’ll get through another minute without ripping your skin off, this book is not going to help you. Save Feeling Good for when you’re feeling good enough to focus on it!”
Why Positive Thinking Won’t Get You Out of a Deep Depression
Nelson compares positive thinking to taking a supplement for weight loss. When the nutrition and exercise is in place, the supplement can really help shed off those last few pounds. But if a person is not doing exercise or eating right, the supplement won’t work. If you are in a deep depression one positive thought is not enough to change your brain chemistry. The author believes that positive thinking can work in mild states of anxiety or depression, but not when you are in a severe state. His belief is that at that point, brain chemistry cannot be altered with just positive thoughts. He believes that only when you dramatically change your brain chemistry are you are in a position to change your thinking. Nelson explains that “Antidepressants work because they change the chemistry and thus the state of our mind. The most common antidepressant is an SSRI, which blocks the re-uptake of serotonin in our brain. This means that our brain will have more serotonin floating around to use. More serotonin changes our mood. Changing our mood allows us to think clearly and think positively.” He goes on to explain that meditation can be effective for depression, but most Westerners are unable to sit still for even 5-minutes without jumping out of the chair to go do something else, so changing one's thoughts for an entire day represents a monumental challenge that can be extremely difficult to overcome. Therefore, the physical body's chemistry must be addressed first in order to restore basic physiological balance, which may assist with engaging with these other positive thinking strategies. The key is that positive thinking alone is not an effective cure, but that the root cause of depression may be strongly connected with blood chemistry as outlined below.
The Solution: Find the Root Cause of Your Depression
Nelson suggests that while negative thoughts can be a symptom of feeling depressed, you must first determine the root cause of your physiological imbalance prior to proceeding with positive thought therapies.
Nelson recommends that you change your body and brain state first in order to address the more severe physical aspects of depression instead of trying to think positive and faking like you are alright. Nelson believes that positive thinking is not the most effective way to decrease depression. He believes it is important to start with identifying root causes of depression. Use of positive thinking may be effective if in a mild state of anxiety or depression, but severe depression requires more intense intervention.
- Kim B.
Positive thinking is a very good way to view life. It can bring hope and perhaps peace into the troubles of our experience.
In most circumstances, by being positive, you will have more friends and acquaintances, and you will be the person they want to be around as you pass along your positive outlook.
Positive thinking will not fix them or break you. It will not even make you the best at what you do. In fact, being ‘Mr. or Ms. Positive’ might just tick off many of the people around you.
This brings to mind a conundrum. Is positive thinking really all that positive? It isn’t negative, right? In relation to persons with depression, a positive influence or role model can be very helpful and refreshing. However, it is relative to the depth and degree of their level of depression.
Someone who is severely depressed cannot simply begin a life and practice of positive thinking expecting it to be a cure all. This in and of itself could lead to a greater depth of depression. For example, a person with depression decides that the disorder is all in their head. It is simply a cognitive decision to begin thinking in a positive manner. Therefore the cure to their depression is simply a happy thought or two away. When that process fails, the outcome could cause the patient to tumble deeper into the pit of their depression.
I remember that I used to like to bowl. (No I am not comparing someone with depression to my bowling game. I am merely trying to illustrate my point. Please bear with me.) I would practice and practice. The more I practiced the better I became. The better I became the higher my score.
I felt on many occasions that I could step into the alley and ‘will’ the bowling ball to roll where I wanted it to go. (It sure seems that the professionals can do that.) I never bowled a 300-point game. I never averaged a score in the high 200-point range. However, I could routinely outscore my opposition. Being able to score more pins didn’t make me a better bowler. In fact it might mean I preyed upon weaker competition.
At some point, my interest in bowling waned, and I rarely went to a bowling center. I discovered that following my absence from the game, I was not as good as I once was. I was out of practice.
I believe that using positive thinking can be along the same lines in regards to its affect on depression. If we don’t practice it routinely and regularly it will lose its power and effectiveness. Positive thinking is a perishable skill.
How Positive Thinking Drives You Into Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2014, from http://dominatedepression.com/positive-thinking-causes-depression/