This site is quite lengthy, so below are some notes I took while reading through the website pages. Notes are not complete, but a good taste. I really found this website helpful in understanding depression and options for treating the condition/disease.


Depression is simply an out-of-place natural response.

Most depression is not due to a chemical imbalance, or genetic factors. Low serotonin levels are a result, not a cause, of depression.

Depression relies how we explain things to ourselves....You feel like a failure and/or feel guilty a lot of the time.

You spend a lot of time thinking about what has gone wrong, what will go wrong or what is wrong about yourself as a person. You may also feel guilty sometimes about being critical of others

A key to understanding depression lies in looking at how the exhaustion and the physical effects of depression are caused by the link between emotionally arousing thoughts, dreaming and exhaustion.

There are many ways of dealing with adversity, some of which will tend to cause depression, and others which will not.

Events can be seen to be a trigger for depression, but depression is not caused by what happens to us in life.

It's about how we respond and make sense of events

And when we start to develop depression symptoms, a depressive thinking style can seem impossible to break.

Depression, we are saying, is not a disease; it is a natural response to certain types of emotional introspection that result in excessive dreaming." Human Givens, 2003, J. Griffin & I. Tyrrell

Low serotonin levels are simply another symtom of depression, not a cause.

The more negative introspection you carry out, and the fewer pleasure-giving activities you participate in, the lower your serotonin levels become.

The actual link connecting depression and stress concerns our thinking styles, namely the "All or Nothing" thinking our mind uses when it feels we feel threatened.

When you are stressed, your brain works differently. You are more likely to resort to 'All or Nothing' thinking, which causes catastrophising, and difficulties in solving complex problems.

In turn, this creates more arousal, or stress, and so continues the 'loop', increasing the amount you dream, and so exhausting you.

We know that most depression is learned, not genetic...

Because much depression has to do with styles of thinking, behavior and interpersonal relationships, there is much scope for depressive styles to be passed down in families by learning.

Getting Your Life Back: The Complete Guide to Recovery from Depression

While the triggers or causes of teenage depression may not appear such major events to many adults, it is the sufferer's perception that is so important.

Antidepressants should not be given to children as the brain's frontal lobes continue to develop until the age of 20.

What we are seeing are changes in society where basic needs for companionship, healthy goals, responsibility, connection to others and meaning are not automatically met.

Children, adolescents and teens are fed a constant diet of images showing how we are meant to look, sound and be, and told that this is important in life.

Meaning is attached to what they have, or look like, rather than what they do, or achieve.

Given that suicide is the 8th largest cause of death in the US, it's no wonder that major depression is classed as "the nation's leading mental health problem"

After the primary human needs (food, water and shelter) come commonly shared emotional and physical needs. Without exception we find depressed people are not getting these needs met.

Traditional communities naturally meet many basic needs for emotional support. In the traditional Amish society in the US major depression is almost unknown, as it is in the equally traditional Kaluli tribe of New Guinea.

In these societies individual concerns are group concerns and vise-versa. You know that if you have a problem other people will help you and you are expected to help out when others need support. We know we are meant to do these things but it's not a 'built in feature' of modern society in the same way.

"Depressed people dream up to three times as much as non-depressed people."

If you are, or have been depressed, you may have noticed that you ruminate, or worry a lot during those periods. Typically, these ruminations are emotionally-arousing as they are carried out using 'All or Nothing thinking' and a negative bias. That is, you have a thought and you feel unpleasant after it - anxious, angry or helpless

The trouble with this sort of emotional arousal is that it doesn't do anything. The thought creates the emotional reaction (usually anxiety or anger) and that's it.

What this does is leave an uncompleted 'loop' in the brain's limbic (emotional) system. Normally, the emotion would be 'played through' by action being taken.

For example: You think "That's a tiger in the bushes", feel anxious, then run away. The cycle has been completed. Or, someone annoys you, you shout at them, and the cycle is completed.

When unfulfilled emotional arousal remains in the brain's limbic system at sleep onset, the brain creates scenarios that allow those loops to complete.

We call them dreams.

The dream acts out, in metaphor, a situation that will allow the emotional loop to be completed and therefore 'flushed' from the brain.

In other words, an imaginary experience whose pattern resembles the 'real life' one closely enough to create the same emotional reaction.

However, because you do so much more ruminating, or introspecting, when depressed, the brain has to increase the amount of dreaming you do.

The more emotionally-arousing, negative thinking we do, the more we dream.

As the excessive dreaming causes more REM sleep, meaning less deep sleep, we become exhausted.

The more exhausted we are the more we are likely to interpret reality in depressing ways.

The cycle continues by finally affecting our immune systems, and periods of repair and re-growth we undergo in deep sleep, affecting our health, which can only add to depression.

Only when we understand the connection between depressive thinking styles, emotional arousal, dreaming and exhaustion does the true essence of depression become clear

During deep sleep, our bodies immune system is under repair. Lack of deep sleep is common amongst depression sufferers due to the excessive time spent in REM. Without this time to repair, our immune system is weakened, making us more susceptible to disease.

Because serotonin helps keep 'pain gates' closed, a lack of it can make you feel more pain. (Back pain is very common amongst depression sufferers).

Serotonin also helps modulate sleep, which is another explanation for the sleep disturbance encountered by those with depression.

All anti-depressants work by suppressing REM sleep, which as you now know, will lift depression. Again, however, this is treating a symptom, not the cause.

The cause is the emotional introspection done by depressed people, and the key place to start reducing that is with your thinking styles.

Depressed people everywhere think in remarkably similar ways. Understanding what these thinking styles are and why they form a pattern, is a major key to beating depression for good.(1)

Depression, to be ongoing, has to be maintained. Otherwise, depression will simply evaporate over time. This maintenance is performed by thinking styles that encourage any introspection to be emotionally arousing.

The person not suffering from depression can "see beyond" the sadness. Even if they haven't formed the thought, unconsciously they know that the sadness will lift. Depression often makes the sufferer think that 'things will always be this way'

As we explain these thinking styles you will see how each helps to maintain depression, by altering how we perceive reality.

It's these thinking styles that make it so hard to see an end to the depression, as they limit our possibilities of thought. Once these patterns take hold, the emotional arousal they cause begins to affect us physically.

Negative Spin

Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so." William Shakespeare

People don't reflect reality (events, other peoples' comments etc.) so much as interpret it.

The same event can have completely different meanings to different people, even if their circumstances are the same.

Depression is partly maintained by how we interpret reality. The 'spin' we put on things. Knowledge about how this happens can turn lives around.

Remember from the cycle of depression that too many negative, emotionally arousing introspections lead to over-dreaming, which leads to exhaustion and depression.

So, to recap, events don't have any intrinsic 'meaning' until human beings add it.

Countless pieces have research have shown that...

changing the meaning of something for someone is the most effective intervention you can make.

Called reframing, this technique puts a new frame of reference round an event. This shows that the meaning you attach to things is extremely important in determining how you feel.

Depression can turn good things into bad by applying a meaning that harms us.

"People who tend towards analyzing what has gone wrong in their lives, reviewing the past selectively (picking out the negative aspects), catastrophising every little setback, dreaming up future disasters or engaging in self-blame, tend to stay locked into the state of depression instead of rising above it. This explains something observed for some time - that depressed people habitually adopt a particular way of thinking to explain things that happen to and around them." Chap 10, Human Givens, Tyrrell & Griffin
Undoing Depression

How to depress yourself

An extremely useful way of looking at thinking is called the 'explanatory styles' model (sometimes called attributional styles.) This is how it works... Explanation What it means

Internal or External Me or not me Internal: "It's my fault or responsibility" External: " It's someone else's fault, bad luck or whatever."

Global or Specific Everything or Just this Global: "My whole life is ruined" Specific: "That will be bad for that part of my life."

Stable or Unstable Forever, or just for now Stable: "This will last for ever." Unstable: "Things will change over time"

These explanatory styles do not just apply to the way you look at bad events, they are just as valid for good ones.

A depressive style for bad events is Internal, Global and Stable, and for good events is External, Specific and Unstable.

Making the most of the bad and the least of the good

A depressed person tends to follow this pattern of spin:

Good Event

  • Write off your successes
  • Fail to get any emotional satisfaction
  • Miss out on a boost to your self esteem
  • Fail to get a realistic idea of your abilities

Bad Event

  • Blow things out of proportion
  • Dramatically increase the negative emotional impact
  • Fail to see possibilities for change
  • Take responsibility for things outside of your control

And when you are depressed, because of your state of emotional

Anxiety = Uncertainty x Importance

Depressed people often doubt themselves in all kinds of ways, but seldom in their judgment about their own interpretations of things.

common trait displayed by those suffering from clinical depression is not being able to tolerate uncertainty - having to assign a meaning quickly to everything that happens. The depression will take care of "filling in the gaps" in an explanation of events.

High levels of emotional arousal will tend to make you assign meaning to things very quickly, as these levels of arousal are usually reserved for life-threatening situations.

Relax a little. Tolerating uncertainty is a prime emotional skill. Established negative thinking patterns can mean that we lose this skill. One way to break out of the arousal-meaning loop is to relax your body and mind, and do it on a regular basis, at least while first dealing with depression.

But the vital point here is that tolerating uncertainty is a skill that can be learned.

Learning how to tolerate uncertainty

- generating multiple explanations

When children are taught in schools about generating multiple possible meanings for why things happened (some of which don't reflect badly on them) then they are less likely to depress as adults.

They literally become more flexible in their thinking. This early teaching of emotional skills has been termed 'inoculation for depression'.

This early teaching of emotional skills has been termed 'inoculation for depression'.

The more possible explanations you can generate, and the more effort you put into doing that, the harder it will be to assign an immediate and definite meaning to an event, and the less likely you are to experience a negative emotional reaction.

Depression literally distorts our perception so that 'good becomes bad and bad becomes disaster.' It's clear that if we only have limited interpretations for why things happen, then change can seem difficult.

Getting Your Life Back: The Complete Guide to Recovery from Depression
Undoing Depression

Raul Estaban — 06 April 2008, 00:41

Same old garbage from the people that told migrainers for decades that their problems were "life style" problems. These people thrive in any area that there is not scientific proof to disprove their belief that flawed human thinking is the ultimate problem with almost all diseases. Of course there is no proof that low serotonin levels are not genetic or a "result not a cause of depression". What an insult to people who live positive, healthy lives who are usually only depressed for short sudden periods of time coming on in good times and bad and accompanied by other symptoms of seratonin problems. Sleep regulation,muscle contractions,migraine,weight regulation,depression all which pass on their own as the weather clears, the front passes, or the triggers wear off.

This type of "help" is nothing more than human thinking worship at its worse and only makes it harder for all those who have depression but are not negative thinkers to climb out of the hole. Shame on you for making profit out of misery!

Brent — 06 April 2008, 07:08

Thanks very much for sharing your view, Raul. You make some provocative points.

First, as an aside, I don't profit from depression. I'm just noting what interests me on this site. I don't sell products; just comment on them occasionally.

Now to the meat of your opinion...

You're right that science does not have a handle or proof on what causes depression, e.g., Are serotonin levels a cause or result of depression? What I object to is that even though science can't answer that question, they forge ahead with false confidence that they can control a patient's depression with drugs, drugs they don't fully understand, and which lead can lead to tragedies like suicide.

Given that, I'm encouraged by the idea or model that depression is caused by thought patterns because with help, thought patterns can be controlled without medication. It certainly may not be right for everyone, but I don't think such an approach trivializes a depressed patient's condition. It simply offers another option for treatment AND another model to view their condition.

All models are wrong; some models are useful.
~ George Box

It's all about improving the models we have, right? Existing models on depression have flaws--as all models must. Science is the persistent effort to improve models. But we must always remember what Box said, by definition, all models are wrong; they can never be complete.

Their only value is whether they are useful or not.