Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help With Depression?

Depression is a serious mental health condition that can be caused by a series of social, psychological and biological factors. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 300 million people around the world suffer from depression. People with depression often struggle to work, which is why it’s also the number one cause of disability worldwide. Although there are effective treatments for depression available, less than half of those suffering receive any form of treatment (WHO).

Most people are familiar with antidepressant medications as a common treatment for depression and related issues, such as anxiety or trouble sleeping. People seeking less invasive treatments might also look into a combination of exercise, better nutrition and maybe even acupuncture. But one of the most common types of treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which empowers depressed people to cope with their personal challenges.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is a specific type of talk therapy that occurs between a patient and a therapist over a series of five to 20 sessions, on average. With the CBT method, patients become aware of their negative thoughts so they can view and respond to certain situations more clearly. Because CBT can be used to help people address emotional challenges, it’s also beneficial for people suffering from PTSD, eating disorders and substance abuse.

CBT is a step-by-step process, which generally occurs in three main stages:

  1. Identify troubling situations: The therapist will ask about a patient’s background, including stressful events in their life, such as divorce, loss, financial troubles, etc,
  2. Become aware of negative thoughts: After the core problems have been identified, the therapist will talk through them with the patient, and understand their beliefs and interpretation of the situation and people involved.
  3. Reshape negative thinking: The therapist will ask the patient to determine if their thoughts about the situation are an accurate perception of what’s going on. For most people, this step is the hardest and takes practice, which sometimes involves breaking long-standing internal thoughts.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Treat Depression

Medical researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes the onset of depression. In most cases, depression is triggered by an array of different factors. But they do know that depression is often a result of negative thinking, whether from traumatic or troubling life events, or simply inaccurate internal and external beliefs.

At its core, CBT aims to help people with mental health disorders reverse their negative thoughts, making it an extremely effective treatment for depression. In fact, a 2018 report published in Frontiers in Psychiatry called CBT, “the gold standard of the psychotherapy field.” CBT helps people address the root cause of their depression, and uses simple conversation and reflection to reverse negative thoughts and create healthier beliefs.

Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Right for You?

CBT is a non-invasive, short-term treatment that can be effective for most people suffering from depression. It requires patients to be open and honest when speaking about their problems, and often requires people to spend their own time working on eliminating negative thoughts, mending relationships, journaling, and more.

It’s also beneficial for people that are on antidepressants, but want to eventually get off their medication. Some research shows that people undergoing CBT may be half as likely to get depression again within one year, compared to people on medication alone.

However, people suffering from severe depression might find that short-term therapy is less effective for solving their problems. For someone dealing with ongoing issues, or if there isn’t a specific problem to fix, CBT might be less suitable than long-term treatment options.

Living A Happier Life

People facing depression shouldn’t suffer in silence. There are dozens of treatments available today that are suitable for people of all ages, and all forms of depression. It’s important to seek treatment for any mental illness before it spirals out of control.

CBT is a great treatment option for depression because it addresses negative thinking at its core. When negative thoughts become more positive beliefs, people can live happier lives and deal with stress in a healthier way.

Elizabeth Rivelli - Contributor

Elizabeth graduated from Northeastern with a Bachelors of Arts in Communication Studies and currently is a freelance writer for a number of publications. She loves to write about mental health, substance abuse, mental health treatments, and depression/anxiety.

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