Effective depression self help must involve changing depressive thinking.

Successful depression self help requires changing one's way of thinking.

It has long been recognized by those who research and treat depression that depressed people think differently than nondepressed people. Aaron Beck, one of the developers of cognitive therapy, observed that his patients had a unique depressive way of thinking.

He called this depressive thinking the "cognitive triad." (Beck, 1970) The cognitive triad involves how those who are depressed view themselves, their world, and their future.

  • Firstly, the depressed person thinks that there is something wrong with him or her that makes happiness impossible. He or she has a self depreciating attitude.

    For example, a depressed person thinks, "I am a loser" or "I am stupid."

  • Secondly, because of this personal inadequacy the depressed person notices negative, misfortunate circumstances but ignores positive, fortunate circumstances.

    In our example, the depressed person may frequently receive positive feedback concerning his or her performance at work. One day a customer -- who is obviously in a bad mood -- complains. The depressed worker can only think about the complaint and sees it as confirming what a loser he or she is. The many positive comments that have been made are not even remembered.

  • Thirdly, because of the belief that he or she is inadequate, and his or her tendency to only notice negative experiences, the future is viewed as certain to be gloomy, dismal, and painful.

    Back to our example. The depressed person thinks, "See there, Mr. Jones noticed how stupid I am and complained. That just confirms what I have known all along. I am stupid. Therefore, things will never be any better for me."

It is important to understand that this depressive thinking is "automatic." It is not the result of thinking the situation through objectively. It just happens rapidly without any reflection.

The negative attitude is learned from early life experiences. Because it is so automatic, it seems perfectly logical to the depressed person. He or she thinks, "That's just the way it is. Its obvious."

Someone else, however, can easily see how irrational the thinking is.

They may say, "I see you do good work almost all of the time. I have heard customers compliment you repeatedly. Mr. Jones was just having a bad day."

The depressed person responds, "I just can’t see it that way."

If you are depressed, you can most likely see this negative pattern of thinking in yourself. To accomplish successful depression self help, you will have to change your pattern of thinking. As Dr. Beck (1976) writes, "The underlying attitude, however, is the component that needs to be changed ultimately if the totality of the depression is to be influenced. Thus, the goal is cognitive modification." (p. 268)

It can be very difficult to bring about depression self help by changing your negative way of thinking into a more positive way of thinking. It will require a lot of work.

You will also need to know how to spot and tackle your negative thinking. The "How to Transform Your Life" E-Workshop can help you learn to do this in a systematic way.

Click here to find out more about how you can effectively accomplish depression self help using transformation skills.

Not only is the cognitive triad an important aspect of depressive thinking that must be changed. Attitudes of helplessness and hopelessness are also critical. For you be successful in depression self help, you will need to identify pessimistic, helpless thinking and change it to optimistic, hopeful thinking.

To learn more about how depression is affected by pessimistic and optimistic thinking, click here.


Beck, A. (1970). Depression: Causes and Treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Beck, A. (1976). Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. New York: The New American Library.