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10 Types of Thinking That Undergird Depression and Anxiety

Pay attention to when you are using strong either-or, black-white logic. Oversimplification is not an emotionally neutral thinking pattern. If you are prone to this style of thinking, begin to pray regularly, “God, show me ‘the third way’ of thinking about things that I often rush past.”

7. Selective attention: We constantly filter our attention. It would be impossible for us to give attention to every stimulus (i.e., sound, scent, touch, emotion, etc.) around us. Often depression-anxiety results when we begin to only notice those things that are wrong or out of order. We screen our internal and external environment and only deem those things that are “off” are relevant or worthy of our attention.

Pay attention to when you stop noticing good things. If you do not regularly smile, feel thankful, or have a desire to express gratitude, there is a strong likelihood that your attention filter is stuck on negative.

8. Superstitious thinking: In children or sports fans, superstitious thinking can be cute or entertaining. In real life, superstitious thinking attributes power to our actions which can be unbearable. Many fears are rooted in the irrational belief about our ability to indirectly influence things outside of our control. Much depression-anxiety is rooted in people thinking their actions or inactions affected outcomes over which they could have had no influence.

Pay attention to when you’re thinking becomes “idiosyncratic” — a way of interpreting reality that is unique to you. If you have to explain things by saying, “I know this sounds weird, but,” it is wise to have skepticism toward the beliefs that underlie your assertion.

9. Passivity: “If I can’t [blank], then I won’t do anything.” This is a pattern of thought that often causes people to cycle between depression and anxiety. The initial passivity and sense of helplessness is experienced as depression. Once “life piles up,” there are seasons of high stress to “catch up.” The near-inevitable sub-par performance then has a high propensity to re-trigger a depressive-passive approach to life.

Pay attention to times when what you “can’t do” tempts you to neglect what you “can do.” Realize that the less you do, the less you will believe or feel that you can do. Passivity also has the effect of reducing your number of opportunities.

10. Equating worth with performance: This mindset requires “salvation by works alone” for you while allowing “salvation by grace” for everyone else. It makes you your own judge; your assessment of yourself becomes more influential in your emotions than what Christ gives you in the gospel. We begin to view ourselves as God’s debtors paying back our salvation or employees earning our keep, rather than God’s children whose growth he delights in at every stage in our development.

Pay attention to when you begin to believe that God agrees with your negative self-assessments because of what you did or did not do. True guilt is easily remedied with the forgiveness Christ purchased at the cross. False guilt has no exchange. It can only be disbelieved; God-honoring it with payment would only validate it.

Which of these patterns of thought are you most prone to engage? What are the mental phrases for which you need to most guard against? As you identify these depression-anxiety patterns, may the Lord use the power of truth to help you walk in freedom.

A version of this post originally appeared here. It is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Personal Responsibility Paradigm” seminar. This portion is one element from “STEP 2: ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my sin.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

**This article originally appeared on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission website

Brad Hambrick
Brad Hambrick
Brad serves as the Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina. He also serves as Instructor of Biblical Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and has authored several books including Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends and God’s Attributes: Rest for Life’s Struggles.

Toddler is Sick With Mystery Illness for 3 Months When Doctors Finally Discover What’s Lodged in Her Nose

A mom from the UK is sharing her story after her toddler suffered for three months with a mystery illness caused by an object unknowingly lodged in her nose.

Candace Cameron Bure’s Dreamy Family Vacation in Italy: ‘Take Me Back’

Candace Cameron Bure, loved for her roles on "Full House" and "Fuller House," recently took to Instagram to reminisce about her family's dream summer vacation in Italy.

Chip and Joanna Gaines: 11 Godly Secrets to an Epic Marriage and Family

Chip and Joanna Gaines are teaching us important lessons about marriage and family as they walk away from their HGTV show for the sake of their family.