What is Depression?

As the Executive Director of the William Glasser Institute-US, I just want to clarify Glasser’s position on depression. Those who believe Choice Theory believe that all behavior is our best attempt to get something we want. We are not always consciously aware of what we are trying to get by using certain behavior. Depression is a behavior that while incredibly painful and debilitating, also can have benefits. The problem is that long after a depressed person has received benefit from depression, it has become a habit so even if the initial rewards are no longer present, they don’t know how to stop depressing because it has become an organized behavior. However, if they initially chose, albeit subconsciously, to depress, then the good news is they can choose to do it differently if they want to.

What are some benefits of depression? As a recent article I just read points out, it could lead to creativity. Other benefits might be to get attention, provide freedom from responsibility, slow life down in order to process the best course, it can protect a person from suicide or homicide by lowering their energy so they can’t follow through on these impulses, it can get a person help without having to ask for it, and it can control people in a person’s life. And you may be able to come up with others.

Glasser has been saying this for decades and it’s only recently that psychiatry is recognizing this phenomenon and is calling it secondary gain, meaning that depression does have its benefits.

Once a person recognizes they may be choosing this behavior and understands what they want that depression is attempting to get, then they can find a better way to get it and let go of the depression.

I am in no way saying this is easy or it is as simple as thinking one’s way out of it. And I’m not saying depression isn’t horribly debilitating. It is complicated and a skilled Reality Therapist can help if this sounds like a course of action you’d like to pursue.

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