Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Strategies for Improving Mental Control in Depression

Recent research has shown that trying to mentally "run away" from unwanted thoughts (i.e., thought suppression) can actually make them more of a problem. People who are depressed are bombarded with what is often an overwhelming slew of negative thoughts that they would like to get rid of. How can people who are depressed take care of such thoughts without ending up making them worse in the process?

In a recent review, researchers from the University of Miami and the University of Texas at San Antonio offer several strategies for improving mental control over such thoughts. They conclude that the most effective strategies involve preventing or changing the natural tendency for people who are depressed to seek out thoughts that signal mental control failure. 

One effective strategy is to change the goal of mental control from trying not to think about unwelcome thoughts (e.g., trying not to think about being sad) to trying to think about welcome thoughts (e.g. trying to think about being happy). 

A second effective strategy is to challenge unwanted thoughts using techniques that can be learned through cognitive therapy. 

A third effective strategy is to use acceptance-based methods, which essentially involve allowing oneself to experience both positive and negative aspects of concepts in the absence of any attempts to modify them, evaluate them, or get red of them.

Source: Beevers, C. G., Wenzlaff, R. M., Hayes, A. M., & Scott, W. D. (1999). Depression and the ironic effects of thought suppression: Therapeutic strategies for improving mental control. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 6, 133-148.