AS@W Antidepressant Skills Workbook: Heling You Deal With Depression
Thinking Realistically
Step 3Learn to challenge these depressive thoughts and replace them with fair and realistic ones.

Challenging depressive thoughts involves deliberately rethinking the situation that got you upset. To do this you can use a strategy called Challenging Depressive Thoughts. Take a piece of paper and divide it into columns, like the example below. There’s a sample of this form at the back of the manual. Feel free to photocopy it if you wish.

Challenging Depressive Thoughts

Situation: Friend cancels lunch date.

She doesn’t like me.
I don’t know why she cancelled; maybe something urgent came up. It’s only lunch.
No one likes me. I’m unlikable.
Some people do seem to like me, so I must be likable.
The world is a cold and rejecting place.
This lunch doesn’t mean much about the world as a whole. I’ve been accepted before.
I’ll always be alone.
I can’t tell the future. One lunch doesn’t mean no one will ever like me.

First, make a brief note of the situation. Some examples: “Talking to daughter,” “Walking to work,” “Planning to make dinner.” Next, write down the negative thoughts that seem related to how you feel. If you like, you can try to classify the type of distortion involved (as shown above).

Finally, think about the situation and try to come up with a more fair and realistic assessment of the situation. Hint: Depressive thinking often goes way beyond the facts. Often the fair and realistic thought is simply to remind yourself that you don’t have enough information to know for certain what’s happening. “I don’t know why she cancelled lunch; there might be hundreds of possible reasons.”

Calling yourself insulting names like “idiot” will cause you to feel more discouraged; as a result, you may give up on a task. But giving yourself encouragement and fair evaluation is likely to result in trying harder, which increases the odds of a successful outcome.

When you’re down or depressed, it’s not easy to come up with fair and realistic thoughts. Here are some questions that will help you do this.

Depressive Thought:



Can I get more evidence, like asking someone about the situation?




Would most people agree with this thought? If not, what would be a more realistic thought?




We are often much more realistic about other people than about ourselves. What would I say to a friend in a similar situation?




What will happen if I continue to think this way?




What is another way of thinking that is more encouraging or useful?




Now use these questions to come up with more realistic ways of thinking about a situation that upset you. Notice that it usually feels better to think realistic thoughts than depressive thoughts.






























Next: Step 4