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"The Healthy Geezer" answers questions about health and aging in his weekly column.
Question: I find myself thinking one sad thought after another and it makes me depressed. Is there anything I can do to stop this?
Answer: Everyone gets depressed occasionally, but gloom should not be persistent in your life. Go to your doctor for a checkup. You might need medication or therapy.
The cause of your depression could be a physical illness, life events, personality problems, side effects from drugs or combinations of these elements. Your doctor's choice of treatment — or no treatment — will be based upon symptom frequency and test results.
A flow of sad thoughts through your mind can be frustrating because you can't be sure if depression is making you think negatively, or thinking negatively is making you depressed. A common cold, exhaustion, stress, hunger, sleep deprivation, even allergies can make you depressed, which leads to negative thoughts.
In many cases, depression can be caused by negative thinking, itself. Our feelings follow what we are thinking, and dwelling upon negative thoughts can send us spiraling down into depression. This concept is the guiding principle behind Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) developed in the 1960s by Dr. Aaron T. Beck at the University of Pennsylvania.
To combat negative thinking, it is important to understand it. The following are some cognitive distortions — ways that our mind convinces us of untruths. These distortions are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions. By repeatedly refuting distortions, negative thinking will diminish.
Credit goes to David D. Burns, author of "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy" (HarperCollins, 1999), for coining common names for these distortions.
In our next column, we'll provide some techniques for accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative.
If you would like to read more columns, you can order a copy of "How to be a Healthy Geezer" at http://www.healthygeezer.com.
All rights reserved © 2012 by Fred Cicetti
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