Depression and How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Sucks For Many of Us

The last few weeks have had me in a state of catatonic depression. As a result, of course, I’ve not been writing on my ‘blog. It’s a tough thing to talk about, as one is disinclined to talk when ensconced in self-loathing and a sort of boredom that is more about a lack of interest in anything than not having anything to do. It’s awful.

Catatonic depression. The word, “catatonic” could mean a lot of things. In this case it means, “confused.” Endlessly searching for a way out. A way to respond to friends and family in an affable and affectionate manner. My wife is my everything and my all, my other self, yet how do I respond to her when I’m questioning the value of my life? My very existence, in my mind, is in question. My son-in-law is a good man, yet I don’t respond to his desire to talk about life and the things he finds interesting. When depressed, nothing is interesting. Nothing. There is a line from, “Lawrence of Arabia,” that goes like this, “There is nothing in the desert, and no man needs nothing.” 

There you go.

Depression deposits you in a land of nothing. No path takes you out. Time…one has to wait. Hunker down, lick your wounds, gauge the extent of the damage. And wait. It will lift eventually…but when?

One of the worst parts of being depressed and interacting with other people is the trite advice that not only doesn’t help, but it adds anger to the mix. Acrimony in bas relief against a blank wall. Why are you telling me to think positive? It’s not only irritating, but it antagonizes. It reduces my suffering, and my illness (it’s an illness, it is) to a state of mind that I put myself into. Such advice compels me to blame myself at a time when I need to be compassionate to myself. 

What advice helps? None, really, except perhaps to say something like, “I hope you feel better soon,” or something like that. Yes, that’s something to say. But don’t imply, and certainly don’t explicitly tell me, that I can think my way out of an emotional state. It’s comforting for people who don’t suffer from depression to create a pleasant fiction in their mind.

Just think your way out of it

Bullshit.

I hate to break it to people who either think they suffer from depression or think they have it figured out, but here is a truth that goes against the tenets of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a religion among many therapists.  Here is the truth…

Very many of us cannot think our way out of depression. It is, as I said, a pleasant fiction. The power of the mind and all that. Nope. Doesn’t work. Sorry. Not for lack of trying.

I understand the desire to believe that. Again, it’s comforting. Hey, if you’re depressed, just think happy thoughts. Head off negative thoughts, see them coming and avoid them. Identify the negative thoughts and avoid them, rob them of their power, empower the positive thoughts.

It doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t work for, in my opinion, most people.

I quote an article entitled, Five Reasons Cognitive Behavioral Therapy May Not Work for You

“CBT promotes assumptions which may be faulty.

 One of the basic tenets of CBT is that your faulty or irrational thought patterns and cognitions are responsible for maladaptive behavior and mental health problems. If one accepts this premise then some practitioners may dismiss the other factors which play a part in mental illness such as genetics and biology. It assumes that the thoughts precede emotions, which isn’t always true. It also usually labels any “negative” thoughts as pathological or dysfunctional and again, this is not true.

Another faulty assumption is that changing one’s thinking patterns can improve one’s mood or decrease the symptoms of a mental disorder.  Unfortunately this does not always happen. One cannot always “think” themselves better.”

I’m trying not to be negative, to say that there is no way out if you’re depressed. There are ways, for people like me who do not respond to CBT. My advice? Find a therapist that speaks to you without an agenda, without a pre-packaged approach. You know, another human being who will listen to you and respond with realistic advice and a modicum of compassion. 

I have that. A therapist like that. It helps. You know what doesn’t help, and hasn’t helped, ever? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 

There, I got that off my chest.

Be well.

 

 

 

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About Darren W. Lyle

I'm certifiably insane (I have the paperwork), collect old typewriters (got one?) and am 45 years old. I've 3 pets, of course, and have thoughts. Some aren't good, some are. some are funny, some are just there, but I'll post them when I'm of a mind to.
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11 Responses to Depression and How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Sucks For Many of Us

  1. PHK says:

    my problem with CBT only seeks to control the symptoms & does not address the root cause.
    people become depressed for a reason.
    she is not interested in figuring out. but just have me do all the homework.

    like i dutifully kept a mood log/journal for a week. she didnt’ even bother reading it. she handed me next week’s assignment

    + there was too much overanalyzing about “the exact reason” for being angry & depressed. (one homework questionaire to fill out)

    so in order to feel good, i ended up retail therapy big time. cause the “homework” assignment really started to stress me out. too arduous. who has time?i felt i was the one doing all the work. so what was the point of having a therapist?

    regards,

    • D.W. D'Lisle says:

      What’s the point of having a therapist? That’s a good question. Most therapists aren’t worth seeing, in my personal experience. That can only be anecdotal, no study can say that most therapists, well, suck. So what I did, over many years, when my strength was up, was to try a new therapist. Finally, I found a good therapist. She has just as much disdain for CBT as I do, and she is very honest. As she says, “What’s the point of all this if we’re not honest with each other.” When I missed an appointment, she told me that it made her mad. I told her that I’d rather have her say that than have it unspoken, under the surface. Be honest! It was a relief.

      One trick, that seems obvious, is to tell her when I’m really anxious about being there. Just say, “Hey, this whole thing is making me anxious as all Hell.” Just get it out there. But too many therapists will give shit advice, go by the book of CBT in a rote fashion, and never connect. She told me that meditation was, “useless” and that it would make my anxiety worse, as it makes me sit there in silence, thinking about terrible things, and whatever is causing me grief. She is right. But saying that meditation doesn’t work…wow, most therapists would never say that. In my experience, most of the best therapists are women. Just my opinion.

      Anyway, are you looking for a new therapist? Have you, at least for now, decided not to go to therapy?

      In Comradeship,

      Darren

  2. PHK says:

    Hi, Darren,

    sorry about the delay. the auto email was put in a spam folder & i was on vacation. then got busy.

    i completely agree that “positive thinking” is bull shit advice. like once a friend essentially told me to “you have a loving spouse; you’re not overweight. you don’t have financial worries…..” , i.e., “stop whining”

    it is pretty insulting to tell people that their negative emotion & fear is irrational (especially try telling that to a rape victim or POW)

    to be fair, my CBT therapist seems a nice lady. for 2 or 3 weeks, it did keep me busy so no time to feel bad. after 6 weeks, i did not see the point of continuing. i got stuck.

    later i found a hypnotherapist. she poo-pooed @ CBT. i saw her only for 3 sessions, very interesting experience. she is quite expensive + she does not believe in long term therapy.

    finding the right therapist is more important to the type of therapy tho.

    right now it’s summer & i feel not too bad. (sunshine + outdoor helps) i try to avoid situations. guided meditation sometimes helps. if it was not “guided”, my mind either gets bored or like you, just thinks about terrible things (either real or imaginary)

    stay well,

  3. tonycoleby says:

    Hello. I found your blog by Googling “CBT bullshit”. Google actually auto-completed that for me after, “CBT b…” so it seems I’m far from alone in my view.

    We as an “advanced” society seem to have replaced unquestioning faith in religion with this assumption that everything will be OK if we just sit down and talk with someone. This someone of course must be wearing a “therapist” hat for this magic to work.

    One of my experiences of CBT failure came a couple of years back when my wife, an ME sufferer whose ailments are compounded by chronic anxiety, was told that she was, rather than simply too ill to work, she just needed a good talking-to.

    My wife is a graduate of one of the leading universities in the world for neuroscience, in that very subject. Formally professionally employed but now unable to work and now in her late forties. Her initial CBT session was an encounter with a fresh-faced, timid, entirely unknowledgeable product of our non-vocational education system. The girl, still wet behind the ears simply searched a vaguely-relevant keyphrase and proceeded to read the corresponding text verbatim at her.

    Google could have done a better job and at a considerably cheaper rate.

    Still, the specialist she sees since being correctly diagnosed with ME seems content to concentrate on CBT as a solution to the very real physical pain she feels every day.

    I’m sure there are private therapists who would be more useful but at this time, they are too expensive an option.

    Therapy is held as a panacea particularly among the middle class. I see friends literally use it like Aspirin. All it does is obscure the real problems beneath while leaving you wanting more.

    As a long-term sufferer of depression, the greatest remedy has been my wife, simply listening, offering insights and sometimes even a brick wall for me to throw myself against. I’d like to think I’ve reciprocated adequately. I sit in on her sessions with her ME specialists now and wish I’d done so earlier.

    So my friend, thanks for your words. I sympathise greatly and hope you can continue to fight one of the toughest battles there is for any mind despite friendly fire.

    • D.W. D'Lisle says:

      As you say, depression is one of the toughest battles any of us can fight. I’m doing well right now, but I’m afraid, as I know that depression will cycle back. I’ve started the process of getting approved for electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), which has worked for me in the past. The memory problems are problematic. As far as therapy goes, it must be incredibly frustrating having a therapist try to treat ME with CBT. It took me so long, but I found a really good therapist who really doesn’t like CBT…at all. So I have found solace in therapy. During my psychiatric hospitalizations in the past, where CBT is like a religion, I just went through the motions to get out of there. One day, they’ll figure out that CBT doesn’t work for most people, and they’ll stop using it in psychiatric facilities. My therapist works in a psych ward three days a week, and she strains against CBT, but she is surrounded by therapists who thoughtlessly apply it to every patient. Most people who work at a therapist should find another line of work. I’m not sure that private therapists are any better. You need to find someone who is empathetic, honest, intelligent, and who doesn’t stick to any dogma. It took me so very long to find one. So very long.

      My wife is my best friend, and she also is my most effective remedy. We’re lucky fellows that way, apparently.

      Any thoughts on ECT for depression? I’m lucky enough to live next to Mass. General Hospital, the highest rated hospital in the country for psychiatric problems. This particular hospital, McLean’s, is part of the MGH system. I’ve done ECT with them before. It’s painless (except for a headache, and some muscle pain), and it does seem to work. Have you ever considered it?

      Has your wife tried Lyrica? From what I understand, it’s pretty efficacious for ME.

    • PHK says:

      i reject the idea of CBT that if one thinks correctly, everything would be be OK
      (this seems belittling to me)

      regards,

  4. Mike Roberts says:

    Depression, anxiety, severe panic, intense anger, etc. – these are just symptoms of currently unknown biological BRAIN problems – just like delusions, hallucinations, seizures, etc.. How is talking to someone with such a problem going to help? It’s bullshit – it’s a way for so-called “mental health providers” who are not M.D.’s and can’t write prescriptions a way to make a buck. Not that the indiscriminate prescription of psychoactive drugs is the answer either. I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for 40 years with Paxil being the only thing that has proven at all helpful. I just hope neuroscience will provide us with better treatments in my life time and push the current crop of mental health “hucksters” to the curb.

  5. Bette says:

    CBT is bullshit, and it’s purpose is to force the brain, by bullying it and lying to it, into ignoring the symptoms. If you could block out those responses on your own, you wouldn’t be complaining about them or asking for help! ALL therapists are quacks who just want money, and that’s why they use this torturous crap and dispense placebos like Halloween candy – for the paycheque.
    I’ve suffered from severe depression and OCD for almost 14 years now and have three suicide attempts behind me. I’m sick of being placed in hospital, only to be told pretending my mental illnesses don’t exist and swallowing a bottle of pills is the answer when I know it’s not. I hope I don’t trigger anyone off, and I SINCERELY apologize if I unfortunately did, but sometimes it doesn’t get better, and killing myself is probably the only way out of my pain – NOT CBT.

    • D.W. D'Lisle says:

      I agree with most of what you said, Bette, except your contention that ALL therapists are quacks. My therapist and I are in agreement that CBT sucks, and she is wonderful. It took me a long time to find her, and up until we met, I never liked therapy…or could do it. Please don’t commit suicide. Do you mind if I write to you via email? CBT is not the way out of your pain, but there are other methods, other therapists. And I want you around. If you have to, call 911. Please, don’t hurt yourself.

  6. H says:

    I am a non-nonsense person who had no patience with “team building exercises”, “icebreakers” and “attitude” poop back when I was working. At least then I got paid to sit through it. CBT seems little more than learn to smile, cultivate a positive attitude, look on the bright side, count the blessings you do have – in other words, Bovine Excrement to me. I would rather crawl across broken glass than listen to it. Furthermore, I am not a people person and would run screaming from group therapy if I COULD still run.

    I’m in constant, chronic pain. If not thinking about it worked, I wouldn’t have gone to the doc in the first place. Nothing will ever make this okay, or the fact that I can no longer do ANY of the things I loved. My doc keeps pushing me to do this because my family thinks they can get the old me back. Not going to happen, and I wish docs would learn that some personality types – the impatient with puppies and rainbows types, like me – would learn that CBT is NOT for everyone.

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