For much of the last half century mental health professionals and research has focused on the biological model of anxiety and depression. This model posits that depression and anxiety are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. In addition, much of the research that supports this model has been sponsored by drug companies who make billions of dollars a year manufacturing the anti-depressant medications used to treat these imbalances.
But is there a different approach to depression and anxiety that works just as well as medications?
David Burns, MD, who is the author of best selling self-help book "Feeling Good" has been one of the prime movers of another approach that treats these disorders in most cases without medications. This approach is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy has been borne out in thousands of studies and is the most effective type of psychotherapy for depression and anxiety.
The main focus of this therapy is the understanding that feelings such as anxiety and depression come as a result of our thoughts. Simply put, if we have negative thought patterns then we will feel anxiety or depression. If these thoughts are pervasive enough then the resultant anxiety or depression can be disabling.
The treatment approach in CBT includes teaching patients to identify automatic negative thought patterns and learn to replace these with constructive thought patterns based on reality. This process can be thought of as reprogramming the brain. The first step is to identify negative thought patterns such as "mind-reading" or "fortune-telling" and then substituting rationale thoughts in their place. The program involves constant practice and is life-long but the rewards can be great and can come without medications and their side-effects.
Next time you feel depressed or anxious just pay attention to what you have been thinking about and inevitably it will have been negative. If you notice that you are consistently depressed or anxious then it may be worth seeing a mental health professional or doctor.
Of course, each individual case is different and the advice in this post should not substitute for getting a consultation with your doctor.
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