10 Types of Thinking that Undergird Depression-Anxiety

An important step in overcoming depression-anxiety is to recognize these patterns of thought as they are occurring.

The goal in studying this is being able to realize when you’re actively engaging in depression-anxiety. In the moments below, depression-anxiety is not “happening to you” but “coming from you.” These are patterns that, by the freedom God gives in the gospel, you can overcome.

 

Just as we can have bad physical habits like biting our nails, picking our nose, or eating junk food late at night, we can also have bad mental habits. There are styles of thinking that are highly prone to cause and perpetuate depression-anxiety. The first step for someone to stop biting their nails is to realize they are doing it. Likewise, an important step in overcoming depression-anxiety is to recognize these patterns of thought as they are occurring.

Below are ten styles of thinking that fuel the depressive-anxious experience. The goal in studying this is being able to realize when you’re actively engaging in depression-anxiety. In the moments below, depression-anxiety is not “happening to you” but “coming from you.” These are patterns that, by the freedom God gives in the gospel, you can overcome.

In this article, we will briefly examine the futility of each pattern of thought and the truths that debunk them. But it is important to remember that depression-anxiety cannot merely be reasoned away. In his book Running Scared, Ed Welch said, “[On the particular fear of flying] I’ve flown many times before and nothing has happened. It’s the safest way to travel. This might help, but rests on the premise that fear submits to logic, which is a dubious assumption. In reality, fears are rarely logical (p. 23).” Instead, you are arming yourself with awareness and truth which you will live out in relationship with God and others.

1. Idealistic: Ideals are good goals without a sense of time. Most often, if we could stretch our ideals out over a few months or years, they would serve us well. But in their time-condensed form they crush our soul and emotions. Ideal towards others result in pride and anger. Ideals towards ourselves result in depression-anxiety.

Pay attention for times when words like “should” and “ought” dominate your thinking. Memorize Hebrews 10:14, and rest in the reality that what God has guaranteed to do in you, he has promised to do over a lifetime.

2. Impossibly high goals: Impossible goals are either super-human or lack achievable pieces. Impossibly high goals can also result from expecting good things that are not a good fit for your personality or skill set. God gives you the grace to be a finite human being (i.e., someone with limits). God also made you with particular aptitudes, and his design for your life is primarily within those aptitudes.

Pay attention for times when you condemn yourself for not being a different “kind of person.” Restrict your daydreaming about things that are at odds with your personality or gifting. When overwhelmed break a task down into smaller, achievable tasks.

3. Personalization: Everything is not “about you.” That’s an encouraging sentence; not a put down. Often our depression-anxiety reveals that we are “owning” every disappointment in the lives of those we love or that occur around us. We simply cannot emotionally withstand being the center of our own worlds. When we illogically interpret life this way, then depression-anxiety is the only logical response.

Pay attention to when you assign blame or rejection to yourself for things that a healthy, objective person would not ascribe to you. Begin to ask yourself, “Would a ‘reasonable person’ hold me responsible for this?” about each thing that triggers depression-anxiety.

4. Emotional reasoning: When we believe our emotions are true in spite of facts to the contrary, this is emotional reasoning. Often the hardest things to doubt are our fears and despair. These emotions are like bad friends to whom we are fiercely loyal and believe whatever they say; that is, whatever we think while we are in these frames of mind. It is often hard for us to separate the realness of our emotions from their possible lack of truthfulness.

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