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Published on June 1, 2020

How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist)

How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist)

Did you know that most people on anti-depressants are depressed again a year later? And between 2005 and 2015, the number of people living with depression worldwide increased by a staggering 18.4%[1].

Even though people are taking more antidepressants than ever, depression is still increasing. It’s paradoxical to think that the estimated 264 million people in the world living with depression are actually together in feeling alone and hopeless[2].

What the pharmaceutical companies seem to make consumers think is that antidepressants cure a chemical imbalance in their brains. But if that were true, why aren’t we seeing depression disappear? That’s not to say antidepressants don’t reduce the impact of symptoms and act as a bridge to effectively address the underlying problems, but relying on them to “cure” depression is not the answer.

We know this.

So how to cure depression?

Johann Hari, a journalist and author challenging what we know about mental health, poses that depression and anxiety arise because our basic needs aren’t being met. He challenges the chemical imbalance argument and argues that masking the symptoms is not the way to cure it.

Overcoming depression starts by understanding that it’s not just a diagnosis but a signal that something bigger needs attention, that something is missing or off-balance. And just as we would do for a car or a computer, we need to look inside to find out what’s causing that flashing red light.

What Causes Depression?

Before we dive in, it’s crucial that you know these three things first if you’re suffering from depression:

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  1. You’re not broken.
  2. You can overcome it.
  3.  It’s probably a natural reaction to the environment you’re in and/or to the events that you’ve been through in your life.

It could be that you’re in an environment that is lacking basic needs such as connection, meaning, and passion, or that you’re holding irrational negative beliefs about yourself based on childhood or traumatic experiences, but one thing is for sure: whatever you’re feeling is real[3].

Whilst this article is not an exhaustive attempt to address all possible causes, we’ll talk about some of the most common causes of depression, namely the lack of meaningful connections and the negative beliefs that we hold from our past.

 

A Lack of Meaningful Connections

One of the most basic human needs is the primal need to feel connected, to be a part of something.

Our ancestral hunter-gatherers needed to be connected as part of a tribe in order to survive. Being rejected meant being exposed to the predators looking for weaklings, people who were alone and vulnerable.

Yes, times have changed, and we’re no longer expecting to be eaten alive in the middle of a city, but we still have that same need for a tribe, to have connection. The great irony is that we’re more able now to “connect” to humans all over the world, but we’re also lonelier than ever. We’re not getting as many real, meaningful connections.

The predators we face now are inside our own heads when we’re sitting alone in our flat feeling hopeless, sad, or (worst of all) feeling nothing. The predator is the belief that death is a way out, a way to ease the nothingness.

This is just one cause, but it’s a big one.

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This isn’t about just talking to or being in the presence of others. You can feel alone in a crowd, and you can feel alone in a marriage. It’s not the physical aspect but the other bit that we get when we form a tribe: the meaning and satisfaction we feel when we share things with others. When we contribute some part of ourselves and improve some part of someone’s something, that’s when we feel a real connection.

In the working environments we’ve created for ourselves, people are working long hours with little to no connection or fulfillment. Our ancestors never had to deal with this type of environment, and it’s something which we need to be acutely aware of so that we can recognize and respond to the signals when we see them.

Professor Caccioppo, previously a psychologist at the University of Chicago and an expert in loneliness stated that:

“The purpose of loneliness is like the purpose of hunger. Hunger takes care of your physical body. Loneliness takes care of your social body, which you also need to survive and prosper. We’re a social species.”[4]

We need these feelings to tell us something is off-balance. Feeling lonely and disconnected means you’re not getting enough of the human connection you need, so you need to change your approach. But if you don’t know that these feelings are signals, and you don’t take the right approach, it’s easy to just give up and say “I’ll never be able to solve this, I’m useless.”

Your subconscious mind believes the things you tell it, and if you’re telling it just how worthless you are, how useless and how unlovable you are, then there’s no wonder you’re feeling worthless, useless, and unlovable. This is another cause of depression: the scripts we tell ourselves.

Your Childhood Scripts

“I’ve always lived with depression, it’s just the way I am.”

Believing that you’re stuck or that you were born with depression is a major block stopping you from overcoming depression. If you’re replaying the same negative scripts over and over, scripts you’ve written for yourself and scripts that others have written for you, then it’s not surprising that your head isn’t an easy place in which to live.

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Not feeling like you’re enough. Not feeling like you deserve to be happy. Feeling like you’re a lost cause.

All of these types of beliefs are things learned over the course of a life, most likely when you were young. Your logical mind didn’t develop until your early teens, so when someone told you that you weren’t good enough or made you feel alone, different or weird, then your emotional brain took that to be the truth about you. But sometimes as adults, we need to revisit the stuff we let in when we were kids because it’s almost always irrational and illogical.

It’s absolutely not your fault that you have them, but it is your responsibility to find and remove them.

A client of mine believed that he couldn’t change because it was the way he’d always been. When we overcame that belief, the next one was that he didn’t believe that what he did was ever good enough. He tried to fit into a career that he thought he needed to, and when he couldn’t face it anymore, he told himself he just wasn’t good enough.

He didn’t contemplate that he was just trying to be someone that he wasn’t and that there were things at which he was amazingly talented. But the shift happened when he started seeing that depression was just a sign for him to keep searching to find his passions, not to settle for a career he hated and to make peace with the relationship he had with his father.

This is something all of us need to work on, and often it’s easier with a therapist who specializes in the subconscious mind (as that’s where it’s all stored), but ultimately you can do this on your own with some real introspection.

How to Cure Depression

By now you’re no doubt aware that there’s no miracle “cure” to depression, but hopefully you can see that depression is a very real and often understandable response to things you’ve been through or things (or lack of) in your environment.

It’s not a matter of just “getting support” or “finding more friends”; that won’t solve it, and it’s not really what you need. Here are some things that will help:

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1. Change Your Scripts

Overcoming depression starts by understanding how your brain works and how other people’s brains work. When you know that your pain has a purpose, that it’s a method of self-preservation, then you can start being aware of what it’s causing you to do and think. When you are aware, you can then change it and rewire it.

For more ways to shift your mindset and rewire your scripts, check out some tips here.

2. Build Meaning and Connection

Building meaningful connections with others will be easier by working on your emotional intelligence and communication skills. Understanding how to read people’s facial expressions, voice, and body language, and focusing on what that person is saying and feeling will help you develop these.

You’ll be able to get control over your self-preservation instincts causing you to feel threatened, and you can see people in a different light. When others feel heard, they’re going to want to hear from you. And if you actually open up, you might find that they feel the same or that you can show them a new perspective.

3. Do Selfless Acts

It has also been shown that we find meaning when doing something for others, doing something where you show human kindness and make a difference to someone. Start by passing on something helpful, or being there for someone, even if it feels really hard.

When you step up and show someone you care, or when you open up about your struggles and be vulnerable, someone who needs it (be it in your office, at a homeless shelter, or just a friend) you’ll be amazed at how good it feels. It’s small, incremental changes here that really help.

Final Thoughts

Depression is really signalling you to stop and take stock of what’s happening around you or what you’ve left unresolved from your past. Just know that you can work on it, that you can find out what ignites your fire and passion, and what makes you feel like you. Above all else, know that it’s all figureoutable and that you’re going to be fine.

More Tips on Dealing With Depression

Featured photo credit: Anastasia Vityukova via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Daina Worrall

Lawyer, C. Hypnotherapist and RTT Therapist - Personal Development & Mental Health

10 Important Things to Remember for Intentional Living How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist) How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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