Many times when a person is depressed they can develop a characteristic pattern of “distorted thinking” about life and their experiences. A person with depression may also have beliefs about themselves and how the world is and should be that are unrealistic. The worldview of a person with depression commonly emphasizes a low opinion of their self-worth and often they can become preoccupied with criticizing themselves. The distorted thinking and unrealistic belief system can lead a person with depression to exaggerate ideas of their duty and responsibility. As a result a person with depression tends automatically to draw personal, negative conclusions from a situation that really is neutral and/or impersonal. Often a person with depression may base their conclusions on a single event or one aspect of a situation that is taken out of context. The result of distorted thinking is that difficulties and limitations are exaggerated, achievements and capacities are minimized, and depression is prolonged.
Though the idea of beliefs and thoughts causing feelings may sound overly simplistic, the distortions in processing the information that occurs in depression are quite complex. "Thinking positively" without changing negative beliefs is not going to decrease depression in any lasting way. Though people with depression don’t engage in a great deal of positive thinking, it is not just the absence of positive thoughts but the frequency of negative thoughts that perpetuate depressed mood. Positive thinking alone will not alleviate depression.
The prospects for recovery from depression for people who seek appropriate professional care are very good. Working with a therapist can effectively help a person address the beliefs and thought processes that contribute to depression. In therapy a person can learn to identify distorted thoughts and replace them with more realistic interpretations, modify beliefs, learn new ways to related to others, and change behaviors. Therapy also focuses on the other symptoms of depression, working to help the patient reduce isolation, increase pleasurable activities and improve social skills.