5 Key Markers of Depression and Anxiety
Information sourced and adapted from Dr. Michael Yapko
1. Internal Orientation
- Making use of your feelings as though they are true in relation to the ambiguities of life.
- “Don’t make the mistake of believing your own fabrications.”
- The common proverbs “Trust your feelings” and “Follow your heart” are often really bad advice.
- Remember that your feelings can very easily deceive you.
- The goal should be to learn how to reality test.
Make multiple explanations for events and distinguish between facts and inferences.
2. Stress Generation
- A cascading series of bad decisions that can make depression/anxiety worse. Remember that your mood has a very strong influence on your decision making:
- Exercise? Socialize? Stopping drinking? “Meh…I don’t feel like it…” Not a great decision.
Take action in putting the goal ahead of the feeling and break down that goal into small steps that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive (SMART goals).
3. Rumination on Negative or Past Events
- Using the past or negative present to predict the future
- “I’ll never be able to…because I never have…”
- Basic definition of rumination: Worry Without Action
- Research shows that environmental conditions regulate DNA expression and brain function, i.e. changing what you do can change your brain and your body.
- “We don’t think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking” – Richard Rohr
- Remember: you are always more than your history
Convert rumination into action. Think: What positive actions would I be taking if the bad incident/feeling had never occurred? Then do those positive actions anyways.
4. Global Thinking
- Global thinking is what makes issues seem so big that they are impossible to overcome, leading to you feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed.
- It is also an act of vague generalization with no clear sequence of cause and effect.
- “I just want to be happy,” is too global a statement, undefinable and immeasurable.
- This is also true with the reverse: “I just want to feel less sad,” is even more ambiguous a statement.
- A Dead Man’s Goal: A goal that a dead man could do better than you.
- Remember: a goal without steps is just a wish
Sequence a thorough flow of steps and learn to be critical of leaps in logic.
5. Unrealistic Expectations
- Check in with yourself:
- Are my expectations of myself realistic?
- Are my expectations of others realistic?
Learn to distinguish what is actually possible from what is merely “hopeless hoping”. Where is the evidence that your expectations are reasonable? Learn to find acceptance towards the things you cannot change and to emphasize that which you can change.