What Happens When Depression Takes Over the Thinking

Published on February 27, 2018

Depression can manifest differently for different people. For some, depression seems to have developed over a period of time. For others, it seems to have hit them out of the blue. Depression can range from mild, moderate, to severe. Some people may experience depression only once, or many times throughout their lives. For others, depression may seem like a constant in the background of their lives.

A common thread among individuals who are depressed is a particular style of thinking. This style of thinking is mostly (or entirely) negative in nature, and is often referred to as faulty, maladaptive, irrational, or dysfunctional thinking. If left untreated, this style of thinking actually serves to maintain the depressed mood. The more negative thoughts one has, the more severe one tends to experience depression.

Let us take a look at what happens when depression does the thinking.

The Most Recognizable Thought Patterns in Depression

01 | Negative Thoughts About Oneself

The first thought pattern comprises of negative thoughts about oneself. Almost everyone who is depressed has self-critical thoughts, such as ‘I am a failure’, ‘I am worthless’, or ‘I don’t deserve to be loved’. This pattern of thinking is present no matter how successful, wealthy, or capable an individual may be, and leads to feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem.

Think back about a time when you felt particularly low. What were some of the things you recall saying to yourself?

02 | Negative Thoughts About the World

The second thought pattern comprises of negative thoughts about the world. Individuals with depression tend to have a negative bias when interpreting the things that are happening around them. They tend to focus on the negatives and ignore the positives, and interpret the world and the people around them as overly harsh or critical.

For example, an individual may focus on the fact that he made a careless mistake in the exam, and ignore the fact that he came out top in class. In another example, an individual may perceive the people around him to be unfriendly and unkind, when someone did not hold the lift door open for him.

When you were in a depressed mood, has there been instances whereby you could recognize yourself focusing on the negatives?

03 | Negative Thoughts About the Future

The third thought pattern comprises of negative thoughts about the future. Individuals with depression tend to imagine negative outcomes in the future, such as, ‘I will never get better’, ‘I will never be any good’, or ‘Trying anything else will only lead to a disaster.’

This pattern of thinking leads to feelings of hopelessness and a lack of willingness to do anything to make themselves feel better. This pattern of thinking is also dangerous as it may lead to thoughts of suicide.

What are some of the negative thoughts that you have about your future?

In Sum

Do these thought patterns sound familiar? Find out more about the symptoms of depression and available treatment options here.


(1) Beck, Aaron, T.; Rush, A. John; Shaw, Brian F.; Emery, Gary (1987). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. Guilford Press. ISBN 978-0898629194.

(2) Greenberger, D., & Padesky, C. A. (2016). Mind over mood: change how you feel by changing the way you think. Second edition. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

This article first appeared here

Category(s):Depression, Self-Confidence, Self-Criticism

Written by:

Sophia Goh

Sophia Goh is a professional counsellor and psychotherapist based in Singapore.

She is passionate about helping individuals lead successful, fulfilling and well-meaning lives – one that they would be eager to jump out of bed for. She works closely with teenagers and adults to help them overcome life challenges and flourish as individuals.

Sophia believes that counselling and psychotherapy should be as accessible and as normal as going to the gym, or getting a haircut. Instead of paying attention to our mental health only when issues arise, she believes that our mental health is an important aspect of human functioning that anyone can strive to improve.

As a professional counsellor, Sophia is one who practices what she preaches. She reads widely on the latest evidence-based and effective practices that would help her clients become happier, more productive, successful and fulfilled.

Sophia Goh belongs to Sofia Wellness Clinic in Singapore

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