Depression is darkness, aversion, despair and sadness. There are many terms that are used to define this condition. Either way , the effects are devastating. Severe depression leads to persistent malaise and loss of interest. Sleep disturbances, loss of appetite and decreased concentration are other symptoms of this condition.
The statistics showing how many people suffer from depression are worrying. It is one of the most common mental disorders. About 8% of the population reported having depression in the past twelve months. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that depression will be the second most common disease in the world by 2020. Therefore, managing depression, including its treatment, is a major mental health challenge.
Treatment of depression
At the end of the 1980s, there were already various ways of fighting depression. Antidepressants became the first step in the treatment of clinical depression. But psychological treatments have also gained popularity. Behavioral therapy, in particular, emphasizes the need to increase the individual’s participation in pleasant activities. On the other hand, cognitive therapy aims to change the way in which the thoughts of those affected cause and exacerbate symptoms of depression. Finally, interactive therapy confirms that patients need to learn to resolve interpersonal conflicts.
Now one might assume that with all these treatments the problem of depression would have been solved by now. Unfortunately this is not the case.
Unfortunately, although all of these therapeutic approaches have been shown to be effective, research has revealed another problem: relapses in people who have previously experienced depressive episodes. This is why some experts are now convinced that depression is a lifelong, chronic disease. The risk of recurring episodes is around 80%. On average, each patient suffers from four depressive episodes in the course of their life that last longer than 20 weeks.
Relapses after successful treatment for depression are common and debilitating for those affected. That is the real problem we are facing today. To solve this problem, psychologists are increasingly turning to variants of cognitive therapy: most of the patients who tried it are less prone to relapses.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression
It has been suggested that mindfulness should be part of the psychological treatment of depression. But what does that mean? Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment, accepting it without judging. And it is remarkable what can happen when our thoughts are actually only perceived as thoughts and not as “reality”.
Simply identifying our thoughts as simple thoughts may prevent us from distorting our reality. This allows for more clarity and a greater sense of control over our lives.
The key is to let go of repetitive thoughts
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is an important step in overcoming mental states characterized by self-nourishing patterns of negative thinking and brooding, and thus can help treat depression.
If we do not break these patterns, we will likely get into a downward spiral, our mood will sink, and eventually we will relapse. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, on the other hand, is a fundamental tool to transform those mental processes and become aware of the present moment.
Choosing what to focus on and how to focus can help us get our mind back on track. But how can this ability be put into practice? In principle, this exercise can be used in all situations.
Mindfulness is an essential element of cognitive therapy for depression. Because mindfulness means looking at the present in a certain way, namely without judgment, a first step is to become aware of your own thought patterns, emotions and feelings. Ultimately, full awareness provides us with the means to change our thought patterns.
The structure of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression consists of at least 8 sessions. Its aim is for the patient to learn to devote himself to every moment in a purposeful and judgment-free manner. The first therapy sessions help to learn this attention. People gradually become aware that they are not really paying attention to what is happening in their daily life. You learn to recognize how quickly the mind moves from one subject to the next. After realizing that their focus is shifting, they are taught strategies to redirect it and focus it on a single element. This is taught in relation to body parts first and then breathing.
Eventually, patients learn to become aware of how their wandering mind can overcome negative thoughts and emotions. This includes addressing mood swings at the moment or after, which falls into the second phase of this therapy.
As we have seen, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can be very effective for treating depressive states. Thanks to this approach, patients learn to recognize their negative thoughts, to accept them and finally to let them go.