Depression and CBT
Updated: Feb 7
Depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness with over 300 million people affected worldwide. Depression is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. Nor is it something that can be “snapped out of.” Most people who experience depression require treatment to get better. The good news is that there are effective treatments backed by decades of scientific research and evidence. One of the most popular and effective treatments for depression is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
What does depression look like?
Depression exhibits differently in everyone, but there are several common symptoms to be aware of. Some of those include pronounced sadness, a lack of interest in activities normally enjoyed, loss of energy, and changes in appetite and sleep. Individuals affected by depression may also have trouble concentrating and experience feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, guilt, irritability, and anxiety.
How can CBT help people with depression?
CBT is a structured, short term therapy that helps individuals better understand the relationship between their negative thoughts, feelings, and actions while also teaching a variety of coping skills.
The cognitive aspect of CBT works to challenge painful negative thoughts. Part of this involves identifying cognitive distortions common to depression. For example, many people with depression struggle with “should” statements (e.g., “I should be better at this” or “I shouldn’t have to deal with this”), all or nothing thinking (e.g., “Everyone hates me” or “I’ll never get a promotion”), and labeling (e.g., “I’m a failure” or “I’m a loser”). These, and other cognitive distortions, perpetuate depression. By examining cognitive distortions and the evidence (or lack thereof) behind our thoughts, CBT allows us to retrain our brains towards more realistic and less negative thinking.
The behavioral component of CBT is behavioral activation. Depression often takes away motivation and pleasure, so many people experiencing depression do not engage in meaningful, productive, or pleasurable activities. By engaging in more of those activities, people begin to feel more accomplished and to experience more pleasure, which also helps alleviate symptoms of depression.
By working with a therapist, CBT can help individuals retrain their brain, cure their depression, and get back to living their lives.