Overcoming Depression and Irrational Beliefs

Depressed man hanging his head
Depressed man hanging his head

American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” It is said that anxiety is related to fear and depression is linked to a sense of loss — loss of a significant relationship, pet, purpose, ability to be independent and maintain control of one’s direction in life.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects over 300 million people globally and data from the National Institute of Mental Health reveals major depressive disorder as the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44 (www.apa.org). The Oxford online dictionary defines depression as “feelings of severe despondency and dejection” (www.en.oxforddictionaries.com). The word “despondency” means a state of low spirits caused by loss of hope or courage, and “dejection” describes a sad and depressed state.

What stands out from the definition was the loss of courage. Courage, also according to the Oxford dictionary, is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one.” Within the definition of depression is its cure: courage. Courage begets hope and hope transforms into action and action manifests our dreams or our desired state of affairs. Most times, actions will need to begin with small steps to build confidence and belief in our capabilities. Acknowledging gratitude for the little gifts in life such as the air we breathe, the opportunities we have, our health and family are great starting points.

Depression is a state of being we’ve all shared and experienced at some point in our lives as a result of a loss. It becomes a disorder when it interferes with our daily social and occupational life. The most effective form of treatment for depression is counseling with a licensed therapist and medication prescribed by a psychiatrist. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a popular technique used to treat depression.

Under the CBT model is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) by Albert Ellis. REBT focuses on changing distorted thinking that leads to unhealthy behaviors and choices. It is not what happens to us but our interpretation of what occurred and its effect on our personhood. Albert Ellis created the ABC model of REBT to help in understanding how thoughts affect behavior.


The ABC Model of REBT

  • A-An activating event occurs that leads to
  • B-irrational beliefs about the event. The irrational beliefs lead us to negative
  • C-consequences in our emotions, behavior and choices. However if we can
  • D-dispute beliefs about the events, this will lead to
  • E-a healthy emotional reaction and behavior.


The 11 common irrational beliefs identified by Albert Ellis are listed below.

  1. I must be loved by everyone or I am not lovable.
  2. I must do everything well or I am incompetent.
  3. I must damn others if they do not treat me well.
  4. I must damn life if things do not go well.
  5. I must control events and people, because they control how I feel.
  6. I must worry about anything fearful or risky.
  7. I must avoid responsibilities and problems in order to be comfortable or content.
  8. I must depend upon others otherwise my life or self will fall apart.
  9. I must be controlled by my past and disturbed by anything that once disturbed me.
  10. I must damn other’s problems and be disturbed by them.
  11. I must damn life if I cannot find the perfect answers to human problems.


Overcoming Depression Is Hard

Our minds are resilient and we have the ability to change by challenging our negative thoughts on a daily or maybe hourly basis. We are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world and interacting with imperfect people and circumstances. Let go of what Albert Ellis calls the three “should” — “I must do well, you must treat me well, and the world must be easy.”

You are stronger than you think and as you draw strength from God, people and your hopes, know that “this” too shall pass. Change can come slowly, and if you have done all you can, simply stand. Standing sometimes will mean moving and working toward goals regardless of how we feel. Mind over matter. Awards are not always given to those who are swift but also to those who endure.

By: Ama Larsen, Faculty Member, Online Bachelor of Social Work Program, Spring Arbor University