Coping Skills Emotional Regulation Isolation Mental Health Perceptions Recognizing Symptoms Stress

A Daily Plan to Cope with Isolation

More than ever, this is when you have to place the care of your mental health as your first priority.

Here is a plan to help you cope with Isolation: Daily practice of what I am about to write for you produces significant changes in the lives of many people who have worked with me. The timing feels right to share it with you, especially since most of us are sheltering-in-place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Get out of bed. Open the curtains and let the light come in. If you can, open the windows to allow some airflow, so your room, apartment, your home doesn’t feel like a dark cave. Resist the subtle seduction of your bed, blankets, and pillow, telling you that things are just too heavy to face right now, that you should sleep the day away. Ignore the lies. You can find a purpose for your day today and there is plenty that you can do with the time that you have available today. Feed your mind. Grow your spirituality. Help others wherever and whenever you can. There’s plenty to be thankful for…you woke up didn’t you? Take a little time to nurture your spiritual connection so that you’re not relying solely on your own power today. YOUR SHOULDERS ALONE ARE NOT BIG ENOUGH. Meditate. Pray. Send healing “vibes” to your loved ones, your community, Mother Earth, the Universe. You can choose your own path for your spiritual expression. Take a moment to hold a vision of all of this passing by…because it always has..and always will. Oh, and stop using the words locked down.

I’m not suggesting that you can hide from reality and attempting to run from our inner experiences only makes it worse. However, there are things you can do to minimize your habit of destructive meditation (i.e., rumination). You can practice catching fearful and anxious thoughts as they come in by acknowledging that they are there and then saying (out loud!) “But right now, I am safe”.

Become aware of what you are allowing yourself to focus on. What you let in through your ears, through your eyes, and out of your mouth influences your thought processes. Your thinking influences how you feel. If you feel like crap, take a minute to notice your thoughts. I don’t subscribe to escapism or “pollyanna” type methods of awareness, that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that the way you feel (e.g., your mood, your energy, your level of motivation) has a lot to do with what you are thinking about. A good friend of mine says, “It’s okay to drive-through, just don’t park there.”

So, for God’s sake, turn the damn COVID-19 news off. You don’t need the death-toll ticker running all day long. How is that helping you? All of the updates will still be there for you to catch up on later, maybe after dinner. Be careful not to sponge up Facebook or news first thing when you wake up or right before bed, unless you want to set yourself up to increase feelings of anxiety and depression, or anger and hopelessness. Don’t listen to the whispers of your comfy chair or your favorite spot in the couch, it will only suck you down into fear, self-loathing, and then self-pity. It’s a set-up to give up!

You can sit down later this afternoon but for now, get moving! Go for a walk…take the dog. Don’t avoid going outside, get into nature. Wear a mask if you think you should. Notice the trees filling in and the flowers blooming. Look at the older couple holding hands as they stroll down the sidewalk. Take a minute to love their LOVE. Feel the sun on your face, on your skin. Connect with other walkers by saying “good morning” and waving from the safer distance.

If the weather is inclement, turn on some upbeat music. Dance with your children in the living room. Do body weight exercises. Check out yoga. Clean the house. Organize the garage, the closets, the Tupperware cabinet. Start a project or a craft. Read a book. Better yet, write that book! Resist the overconsumption of alcohol, sugar, and drama; all of them are high-powered depressants. Watch an inspiring movie, not one that increases your fear and anxiety, unless you’re into self-inflicting an increase in your mental health symptoms. Which in that case, reach out for mental health help right away by calling a hotline. RemedyLIVE is one of my favorites. They can help you 24/7 via text message. Stay connected with people who are coping better than you are, so you can be encouraged and empowered. Only then can you pass strength on to someone who needs it.

If you are in recovery for mental illness and/or substance use, connect with resources online that hold regular meetings or groups, and read about how to reinforce coping skills that will help you with a more productive outlook. When things ramp up, it’s tempting to think that your medication isn’t working. Stay with your medication. Don’t stop abruptly without talking to your doctor first, unless you want to risk the deterioration of your mental stability, psychosis, or a full-on 5150 trip. Please call your provider first and discuss what you’re experiencing. Request your refills long before you run out to allow time for mail delivery.

Remember that thoughts, emotions, behaviors, including anger, crying, seething resentment, and constant worry, all take up energy. Reduce your engagement in conflict. Reduce your exposure to conflict. Your mental and emotional resources (energy) are already being siphoned by just trying to cope day-to-day. I’m not talking “ju-ju” energy stuff here, although I do believe there is much to be said of matters that are phenomenal in nature, such as meta and quantum physics. I mean energy as in just basic physics, including biochemical reactions in the brain and body. So don’t risk wasting precious energy by jumping in the ring at every invitation. You can sit this one out. This means avoiding petty arguments with your spouse or partner, be mindful that your children are going through their own painful process – get off their backs. And your parents have their own ways of dealing with things, stop trying to force them to think and feel like you do. Love your siblings and be considerate of the cashier at the grocery store.

Be aware that mental and emotional stress, as well as physical pain, often come out sideways. You may not even be aware of this, but your feelings of not being able to control what is happening can be expressed as fighting for control with other people, because something in you just needs to remember what it feels like to have control, to win. This serves no one, especially YOU. Conflict just increase the likelihood of a three-day emotional hangover and possibly a bout of deep depression afterwards. Why choose to go down there? The risk isn’t worth it. Fight to keep yourself from opening your mouth. Fight to walk away. Whatever you have to do to maintain a sense of calm in your mind and prevent yourself from causing harm to someone else. Let it go.

Create a routine at night that sends signals to your mind and body that it is time to slow down, shut down and recharge. Be careful not to impede your process of rejuvenation by eating a big meal right before bed or sleeping with the television on. Get comfortable. Read a book before bed. Binaural beats are a wonderful way to take advantage of the always-awake parts of your mind (best to use headphones) and I’ve known it to help even self-proclaimed ‘hopeless’ insomniacs. Review the last 24 hours like you are watching a movie on the screen of your mind. Avoid re-feeling it; just watch it. Gently note areas of your thinking, feeling, and behavior that need improvement, without casting callous judgment on yourself and others. Let the swirling criticisms of others float away from your mind. Release all of your concerns by imagining them floating up and out of your mind, and up into the night sky, where something bigger than you can tend to them, for now. Set a mental goal (an intention) to wake up to a new day with the simple gratitude of being given Life. Before you fall sleep, say out loud: “In the morning, I will know just what to do.”

With each sunrise, you have a new beginning.

When you wake up, go to the beginning of this page and repeat.

Share with those who might need the help.

Comment about your experiences below. I’d love to hear from you.

– Mia
Emotional Intelligence Trauma Recovery Coaching

50. Can Someone Live Happily After 50 Traumatic Exposures

50. That is the number I came up with the last time I wrote it all out. That’s almost one event for every year of my life, starting with being born dead (blue). Being physically, sexually, emotionally abused as a young child without protection, guidance, and empathy. Being the scapegoat of my family. Surviving homelessness, rapes, and life-threatening domestic assaults as a teenager and young woman, without support. The death of an infant son, my first child. Single-parenthood and poverty. Grappling with compulsive self-harm, suicide attempts, and decades of alcoholism and addiction (my self-soothing buddies for so long), and reclaiming myself after years of narcissistic abuse.

This isn’t even the half of it, but don’t be sad for me, dear friends, I’m not telling you this to gain sympathetic responses. This is actually quite uncomfortable for me.

The only reason I am putting it out here like this is because several clients of mine have recently encouraged me to do so (you know who you are), so that maybe someone will read this and be infused with hope for a big change, and see me as an example of that possibility.

I thank all of you for nudging me to be more courageous about sharing my story publicly.

I have a wealth of insight from all the horror of my before story, but my favorite part, THE BEST, BEST, BEST PART, is the happiness in the after story.

It’s the emotional freedom, prosperity, love, and indescribable joy that I am consistently living today.

I’m living a life that parents, doctors, therapists, and even myself at one time, said was impossible for me to ever have.

It’s about how I got here and how I stay here that helps other trauma warriors transform their lives.

Focusing on the present and future instead of the painful details of the past is what makes trauma recovery healing instead of retraumatizing.

We’ve already lived it, right? Now it’s time to finally heal it, so we can learn to live as if it never even happened. And if that can be true for me today (and it sooo is!), then it is possible for YOU, too.💙


An Important Holiday Message from Trauma Recovery Coach Mia Vivone

I want you to know how honored I am to have crossed paths with you.
It is my hope that this message finds you with an awareness of your inherent worth, knowledge of your true power, and practicing a daily plan that maintains your freedom.
This can be a busy and emotionally-complicated season.  You may be choosing to spend time with loved ones or choosing to avoid family dynamics altogether.
Either way, this can be a difficult time for trauma survivors and if you are feeling activated, overwhelmed, or lonely, I want to gently remind you that I’m here.
I don’t mind sharing with you that I have experienced many challenges in my period of trauma recovery during these times when it is almost expected for everyone to be open and cheerful.
It is often a time when you may be pressured to show love and attention that you feel you are not ready to give, and it’s ok that you don’t (or can’t); it’s ok if you do, as long as you have a plan for self-care to help prevent an emotional collapse later on.
In my own experience, I have attempted to participate, reinforced boundaries, requested “no contact”, grieved nurturing relationships and normalcy, and spent many holidays alone because of flashbacks and the toxicity of dysfunctional family gatherings.
I am here to listen and also to help you cope.
This is me wishing you a steady and stable holiday season and a successful new year ahead.
The past no longer needs to infiltrate your present or dictate your future!
You are powerful, valued, and appreciated.
I just had to let you know…
– Mia
Emotional Intelligence

In Response to “Suicide is a Cowardly and Selfish Act”

Suicide is so complex that none of us could begin to understand another’s suffering and mindset that compels them to succeed in this act. I know from working with 100’s of people who struggle with these tendencies and assisting them in finding reasons to hang on that in that moment – they are convinced that the world and everyone that they love is better off without them.

You’re right, that is a form of selfishness.

But it is also an emmense sadness, an insidious negative self-narrative that often cannot be identified let alone counter-balanced, and it involves a compulsion in the mind that is strictly set apart from those who have never been on the brink – those who can not begin to put themselves in the others’ shoes.

I have been on that brink and have survived three attempts to take my own life. I have been in that darkness that floats in and says “I can’t deal; I’m better of dead; and they are all better off without me” countless times in my life from the earliest thoughts at 5 years old to the most recent close call in my 40’s after an excruciating divorce. My ideation and attempts were linked to the activation of the effects of early trauma, especially the negative self-narrative, although I cannot speak for anyone else.

My son’s friend and teammate shot himself with his father’s gun at 13 in his dad’s truck. My son asked me, “What would make Chris do that, Mom?” My best answer was and still is this: “We just don’t know exactly what it is that grips the mind in such a way that it overrides all of the built-in preservation inclinations of the human soul”. I find it hard to judge Chris as ‘selfish’.

And my experience is that there isn’t always a way for the individual to see that it’s “wrong” or for those of us outside of their minds to see it enough to help prevent it.

The truth is: most successful completions of suicide involve a person who shows no markers of being suicidal. That’s the deal – they don’t want anyone to suspect. Because if we do, we may succeed in stopping them.

Maybe they can’t reverse that thinking that’s going on. I know I had a hard time fighting it.

Maybe it’s just sad. Sad and complicated.
Thank you for starting the discussions, my friends, they need to be had. 🙏🏼💓

If you are suffering please reach out by calling U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988.

I’m so glad I did not succeed and that I did not miss this life – all of it.

Autonomy Coping Skills Isolation Survival Mode

Ultra-Independence: Both an asset and a liability.

A fierce sense of independence has been both my greatest asset and my greatest liability. It kept me alive, helped me raise two boys alone, and helped me reach many personal and professional goals.

At the same time, it kept me from trusting and loving myself and also, you. It blocked my ability to receive help and encouragement, appreciation, and love from anyone else.

It warped my view of anything spiritual.

It spurred strong work ethic and comfort in being alone, but also reinforced damaging codependency.

Attempting to bring more balance to this core sense of autonomy (instilled by trauma), has been one of my greatest challenges.

Today, I have only momentary lapses of discomfort from the survival reflexes that spout from this when fear is triggered, but my ability to remain open, positive, and trusting, is usually front and center.

I feel good MOST of the time.

Today, I can ask for and receive help and love without it threatening my sense of strength.

Today, I can say the words I vowed to never say: “I need you”.

Photo credit: Kate Kelly, ESQ | The Minds Journal



Depression is Serious

In 2014, an estimated 15.7 million American adults age 18 and up and an estimated 2.8 million American youth ages 12-17 reported having one or more depressive episodes within the last year (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2015; National Institute of Health, 2015). 

Depression is a debilitating mood disorder that affects an individual’s ability to do simple, daily tasks. 

Symptoms include, dramatic drops in energy, difficulty concentrating, trouble maintaining normal sleep patterns and a host of other symptoms that may last for more than two weeks. (American Psychiatric Association, [DSM-5], 2013).

Depression and depressive disorders affect a global estimate of 350 million people, affecting women, more so than men, and are responsible for 90% of all youth suicides (World Health Organization, 2016).

Is It Depression or Just a “Bad Mood”?

For someone examining the list of depressive symptoms and wondering if it is time to seek the help of a physician; it may be difficult to tell.  

It is not unusual to experience moments of feeling down.  Some people cancel plans with friends in favor of staying home alone on a Friday night. 

Others let the dishes and the laundry pile up because they ‘don’t feel like it’. Still others seek comfort from the indulgent combination of yoga pants, rocky road ice cream, and a Through the Wormhole marathon narrated by the soothing intonations of Morgan Freeman.  

Are these examples of people coping with depression?        

The impact that depressive symptoms have on a person’s daily functioning ability for extended periods is what differentiates depression from a bad mood.   A person with depression is unable to function mentally, emotionally, and physically, the way that he or she did before experiencing symptoms (National Institute of Mental Health, 2015).

This harrowing detail alone is enough to cause feelings of despair, for the individuals as well as for all who care for them, but people diagnosed with disorders of depression also face the somber realization that relying on their own determination and efforts to recuperate and restore the satisfaction that they once experienced in their lives may be a challenge.

Depression is a life-stealing illness that affects millions around the globe (WHO, 2016; NIMH, 2015).

Biological and Psychological Origins of Depression

Typically, theories of depression are grouped together under one of two categories: Biological or Psychological. This article is not inclusive of all theories of depression causation or all factors of vulnerability to depression.  

Some examples of biological causes of depression include genetic, biochemical, anatomical, and physiological aspects associated with depressive illnesses.

Some examples of psychological causes include cognitive-behavioral, emotional, sociological, and environmental aspects associated with depressive illnesses.

Depression is not a single diagnosis, but a cluster of disorders with numerous diagnostic specifiers, or labels, that may be applied depending on symptoms.

Even though two people may share the same diagnosis of a depressive illness, it is likely that their symptoms will vary and require different specifiers and subsequent treatments (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th   ed., APA, 2013). Researchers determined that depression has a heritability rate of 30-40% (Elder &Mosack, 2011).

Many agree with the biological theory, particularly that of genetics, and regard depression as a disorder of heredity.   An individual’s chances of developing depression can be up to three times more likely if he or she has an immediate family member that has been diagnosed with depression (NIMH, 2015). 

It might be logical to presume that physicians will soon be able to examine genetic information and predict who will develop depression and other diseases and who will not. 

A family history of depression might increase the vulnerability to depression, but what, specifically, encourages genes to mutate and what causes the alterations of alleles so that their expressions affect specialized processes, such as neurochemical transport, in only some patients; but not all, is as much of a mystery today as it was two decades ago (Medina et al., 2016; Munafo, 2012). 

It may be that the answers we seek are elusive with the outcomes of genetic epidemiology studies being confounded by variables that range from “cellular to biographical” which tend to make predictions of who will and who will not develop disease virtually unattainable (Munafo, 2012, pp. 915).

This fact challenges the assumptions of particular doctrines that subscribe to and promote essentialism using an “essence-prior-to-existence” philosophy (Haslem, 2011, pp. 819) and the implication of presenting data in this way suggests that if an individual’s genetic information reveals his or her vulnerability to developing depression or depressive disorders, there is little hope for improvement.

This misperception presupposes that the quality of health, therefore the quality of life, is at the mercy of personal biochemistry which encourages patients to expect the worst.  

Presenting genetic theory as causal and immutable, versus emphasizing the pliability of some aspects of depressive disorders, contributes to prognostic pessimism in patients regarding disease prognoses (Lebowitz, Ahn, & Nolen-Hoeksema, 2013).

This perspective is prevalent in patients diagnosed with disorders, as well as the general public, with 80% of Americans endorsing a vague explanation of “a chemical imbalance in the brain” as a cause of depression, and 64% of Americans endorsing the explanation of “a genetic or inherited problem” as a cause of depression (Pescosolido et al., 2010, pp. 518).

It is apparent that the majority views depression as a diagnosis of which recovery or remission are not possible, should causation be considered as purely biological. 

The acceptance of half-truths could be due, at least in part, to the aggressive promotion of negative aspects of psychiatric disorder diagnoses (e.g., depression) which add to patients’ perception of hopelessness.

This is a disservice to patients and does not align with psychologists’ responsibilities of preventing harm and further suffering to patients as specified in the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (American Psychological Association, 2014).

An approach that accentuates the positive possibilities, as well as informs of the negative realities, would include patient education regarding aspects of depressive disorders that could be transformable.

  A comprehensive view would better facilitate patients’ understanding, beliefs (i.e., expectations) and optimism regarding disease prognosis and could also alleviate patient stress (Pescosolido et al., 2010).

I am not disputing this abundance of evidence confirming the multitude of biological changes that are known to occur in patients diagnosed with depression and depressive disorders.

I am suggesting these biological changes to be part and parcel to an increase in vulnerability to depression; not to the causation of depression.  

Dr. Munafo (2012) states that the impossibility of predicting depressive diseases using genetics alone is due to confounding variables that occur on many levels and stem from a broad range of origins.  

One of the variables he mentions is the “occurrences of stressful life events” (pp. 916), implying that exposure to stressful events is associated with depression. 

This implication possibly connotes a psychological underpinning regarding depression and depressive disorder causation.                              

Exposure to Stress and Depression

Evidence shows that stress is associated with overwhelming amounts of perceived fear, pessimistic attitudes towards daily life, and a nagging sense of defeat and personal responsibility for failure, all of which contribute to the pathogenesis of physical and psychological disease (Selye, 1950, Weider & Selye,1953). 

Life is full of major stressful events (e.g., unpredictable

circumstances, uncontrollable losses) and events that may seem minor, but are chronic as well as

toxic (i.e., highly emotionally charged irritants that are experienced daily) both of which hinder biological mechanisms (Fossati, Radtchenko, & Boyer, 2004; Krishnan & Nestler, 2010; Medina et al., 2016), thought processes (Hankin et al., 2009; McIntyre & Cha, 2016; Patten, 2103) and emotional regulation (Beck & Alford, 2009; Lau, Segal, & Williams, 2004; Scher, Ingram & Segal, 2005) which contribute to destructive behavior (Abela & Hankin, 2008; Beck & Alford, 2009; Butler, Chapman, Forman & Beck, 2006), and to the development of disease (Cohen, Janicki-Deverts, & Miller, 2007; Hammen, 2005; Selye, 1950).

Chronic stress exposure (e.g., consistent financial insecurity, recurring marital conflict, coping with chronic illness) has been associated with a change in responses that are longer in duration or even permanent, compared to acute stress exposure (e.g., a sudden layoff from employment) that may cause negative emotions that are greater in intensity, but lasting for shorter periods (Cohen et al., 2007; Hammen, 2005;Ingram et al., 1998; Monroe & Simons, 1991; Patten, 2013). 

These changes in responses are the body’s adaptations to stress (Beck & Bredmeier, 2016; Selye, 1950; Weider & Selye, 1953).

Stress can be placed on the body and can also occur within the body and this, of course, includes the mind.        

Using an example of resistance training: the stress of curling dumb bells causes microscopic tears in the muscle fibers of the bicep.  

The body adapts to this stress by generating newer and stronger muscle fibers during periods of recovery in order to repair those tears, resulting in the bicep’s future potential to withstand heavier loads (LaStayo et al., 2003).

The stress caused by the resistance training of a muscle creates adaptations which, ultimately, benefit the overall health of the individual, whereas negative affective states associated with stress, particularly those caused by chronic exposure, elicit adaptations that jeopardize the overall health of the individual (Cohen, et al., 2007; Hammen, 2005; Selye, 1950, Weider & Selye, 1953;).

Weider & Selye (1953) re-classify these responses as “mal-adaptations” since the alterations that take place do not benefit the individual, but expose him or her to excessive amounts of risk for psychiatric and physical diseases (pp. 203).  

Some, but not all, maladaptive responses to stress that take place within the mind are the development of diathesis, schema, and cognitive distortions (for a brief review see Beck, 1967, 1979; Beck & Alford, 2009; Zuckerman, 1999).

Would Less Stress Equate to Less Depression?

Many people agree that stress and depression go hand-in-hand.  

Some researchers posit that stress is causal to depression since maladaptive responses are elicited when individuals encounter stressful experiences (Hammen, 2005; Selye, 1950; Weider & Selye, 1953; Zuckerman, 1999). 

Some individuals are more susceptible (i.e., vulnerable) to negative affect states associated with stress than others. 

These vulnerabilities, or diathesis, include many factors (e.g., biological, psychological and situational) and are thought to exist in latent states before stress exposure and before symptoms of disorders (e.g., depression) appear (Beck, 1967, 1979; Beck & Alford, 2009, Hankin et al., 2009; Ingram, et al., 1998; Zuckerman, 1999).

With the cumulative effects of additivity or chronic attrition, the presence of stress interacting with diatheses largely contributes to increased cognitive reactivity to stressful situations which in turn, induces escalating negative affective states (Cohen et al., 2007; Hankin et al., 2009; Ingram et al., 1998; Lau et al., 2004; Monroe & Simons, 1991).

Stress can occur on and affect many levels (e.g., biological, psychological, behavioral, social) and elicit maladaptive responses which increase the likelihood of psychological and psychiatric disorders (e.g., depression) as well as many other diseases (Cohen et al., 2007; Hammen, 2005; Patten, 2013; Selye, 1950; Weider & Selye, 1953).  

Does this imply, hypothetically, that if the growing multitudes of life stressors that are common to many people living in today’s post-industrial world were to be completely removed – the prevalence ofdepression would decrease; even vanish?

Dr. Kevin Strauss’s recent article Genomics for the People (Scientific American, 2015) describes the work of a clinic in the North American plains which conducts high-tech genetics research in the serene communities of isolated Amish and Mennonite settlements.  

I have only a basic knowledge of this peaceful group of people who settled here while seeking religious asylum in the 1600’s, but I know that they have seceded from the modernized majority in an effort to preserve their culture, faith, and social cohesion.  

The article contained several photos of the Amish and Mennonite people with content facial expressions and their bare feet in tall green grass.

Surprisingly, the technologically-advanced research clinic was raised and is supported by the Amish and Mennonite people with the hope of preventing disease in their future generations with the use of genomic-wide association studies.  

The clinic is the first occurrence of preventative mental health care in the community of the Old-Order Amish and Mennonite families of Pennsylvania (pp. 68). 

After several years of testing, Dr. Krauss and his team discovered the pathogenic missense variant, KCNH7, a psychiatric allele with pleiotropic effects, which researchers believe to have a significant role in the diagnoses of bipolar spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and major depressive disorder that were found to be highly-penetrant in the quiet, slow-paced community of Amish and Mennonite families (Strauss et al., 2014). 

Dr. Krauss (2015) also mentions in his article that the environment of the community and the involvement of its members, who are concerned with the preservation of unity and peace, “serves to mediate positive psychological and behavioral changes in those afflicted with major affective disorders” (pp. 73).

The findings of Dr. Krauss (2014) and his team argue the assumption that there may be less prevalence of depressive disorders in environments that are considered to have lesser amounts of stressful life events that would potentially trigger symptoms of affective disorders (e.g., depression).

Negative Constructs of Cognition & Distortions

Genetic researchers concede that biological factors (e.g., genetics) influence the expression of depressive and psychiatric disorders, but the way that an individual responds to stress triggers is what determines whether or not he or she will experience depressive symptoms (Elder & Mosack, 2011; Sullivan et al., 2000).

Cognition encompasses the variables of perceiving (i.e., becoming aware), recognizing, which is identifying after encountering previously, conceiving, which is the process of formulating associations, judging, which is the process of drawing conclusions based on associations, and reasoning, which is considering various possibilities according to strict principals of validity and logic.  

When the cognitive variables of depression-vulnerable individuals are re-structured as a maladaptive response to negative life events (e.g., stress), constructs known as schemas are formed.  (Abela & Hankin, 2008; Beck & Alford, 2009; Dozois & Beck; 2008 Ingram et al., 1998;).

Schemas are internal configurations of informational processing patterns that are either conscious (i.e., having an immediate awareness as thought patterns are occurring) or subconscious (i.e., existing and transpiring within the mind without having an immediate awareness as thought patterns are occurring). 

If an individual happens to be aware of his or her thought patterns in the present moment, he or she may experience schemas as subtle reminders that contain words or events that depict scenes (Beck & Alford, 2009).  

Schemas are thought to exist in dormant states until triggered and activated by a familiar aspect of the situation that occurred when the schema was first formed (Dozois & Beck, 2008; Kovacs & Beck, 1978; Monroe & Simons, 1991). 

Each schema is linked to another based on similarity of content and multiple schemas form matrices of content-related themes that each contain a self-rehearsed narrative consisting of stored negative attributions (i.e., suspected internal or external sources of causation), beliefs (e.g., personal philosophies, expectations) and dysfunctional attitudes (e.g., mental, emotional and behavioral reactions) that were formed in response to previously experienced situations (Beck, 1967; Kovacs & Beck, 1978), particularly, negative interactions that occurred in early-life development (Beck, 2002; Lumely & Harkness, 2009).  

A triggered and fully-activated schema can spread activation potential (i.e., energy impulses) that triggers associated schemas (Hollon, 2010; Lau et al., 2004).   

Each fully-activated schema filters and sorts incoming information according to its maladaptive structure of negative biases (Beck, 2002; Piaget, 1926) which deludes healthy cognitive processing which distorts the individual’s

perception and interpretation of information leading to inaccurate presuppositions and errors in judgment (McIntyre & Cha, 2016).  In other words, cognitive reactivity (i.e., activation of a single schema or several associated schemas by a triggering event or events) results in maladaptive adjustments in cognition, increasingly drastic distortions, and elevated negative

affective states, all of which proceed presentations of depression symptomology and influence the severity of behavioral reactions. 

Evidence suggests that higher levels of cognitive reactivity and associated negative affective states are more likely to present in individuals whose predominant thinking habits contain preconceived and irrational inclinations toward negatively biased appraisals, associations and attributions, since the nature of an individual’s emotional reactions and subsequent behavioral responses matches the nature of his or her thought content (Beck, 1967, 1979, 2002; Beck & Alford, 2009; Dozois & Beck, 2008; Hankin et al., 2009; Hollon, 2010; Ingram et al., 1998; Kovacs & Beck, 1978; McItyre & Cha, 2016; Piaget, 1926;

Rubenstein et al., 2016; Scher et al., 2005; Seeds et al., 2010).

Beck, (1979) dubbed a three-fold combination of negatively inclined perceptions of the “self, the world, and the future” as the “negative cognitive triad” which he suggests is not only related to depression symptoms, but what he posits is the primary cause of depression, as well as many other mood disorders (Beck & Alford, 2009).

A therapeutic approach that teaches patients how to track, evaluate, and then reframe the dysfunctional views that drive cognitive distortions (e.g., schemas) equips them with tools to overcome problems and cope with situations which they perceived as hopeless.

The individual’s improvement in functioning is accomplished by re- evaluating and correcting his or her thinking (Beck, 1991, Butler et al., 2006; Morrison, 2014).

This approach has encouraged the spawning of several cognitive therapy modalities that, today, treat major depression and numerous other affective disorders, causing cognitive therapy to be recognized repeatedly for its efficacy (Beck, 1979; 1991; Beck & Alford, 2009; Butler et al., 2006; Hollon, 2010; McIntyre & Cha, 2016; Teasdale, 1995).

Certain mental activities, such as rumination and prospection have been shown to exacerbate negative affective states produced by negatively biased thinking patterns and cognitive distortions (Levens et al., 2009; Michl et al., 2013; Roepke & Seligman, 2015).

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.”

These words were of Greek philosopher Epictetus (135 C.E.) and may have been prophetic pertaining to the habitual and destructive thinking patterns of re-experiencing the past (e.g., rumination) and pre-experiencing the future (e.g., prospection) and the epidemiology of depression.

Rumination is the persistent, passive, and often subtle mental habits of attributing events to negative causes, re-experiencing scenarios of the negative consequences, and focusing intently on the presence of uncomfortable negative emotional states; without engaging in active problem-solving that could potentially lift depressed mood (Levens et al., 2009; Michl et al., 2013). Michl et al. (2013) found that self-reported events that were perceived as stressful predicted higher levels of rumination that lasted for prolonged periods of time that carry over to several different aspects of a person’s life.

Although the findings are of interest to the field, the results may be questionable since the sample population for this study consisted of adult and adolescent participants who were all from a lower socio-economic status community (e.g., per capita income of $18,404) in urban Connecticut.

The authors may have assumed that this sample would be more inclined to test positive for greater prevalence and severity of depressive symptoms and therefore be able to provide substantial amounts of rumination data, which would present a sampling bias. Also, the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (APA, 2016) emphasizes the eradication of biases in research that could be based on factors such as race, income, and social status and this may not have been addressed.

According to Michl et al., (2013), the sample of adolescents “(N=1065); 57.3% Hispanic/Latino” were from schools that were essentially chosen because of certain demographic characteristics and agreeableness to participate (pp. 341).

Testing a sample that is mainly composed of participants who are of minority racial and ethnic backgrounds and a lower socio-economic status, with over a quarter of the adolescent participants living in single-parent households, cannot provide information that can be generalized and ethically applied to the entire population.

Given the demographic characteristics, the participants of this sample are most likely exposed to an increased number of stressors of significant quality and intensity, compared to those individuals of demographic characteristics which are not represented in this study.

It would be interesting to analyze data collected from a similar study that is conducted with a sample that is broadly inclusive of all U.S. population demographic characteristics and therefore, a suitable sample representation of the population, as a whole.

Researchers conclude that negative rumination (i.e., a negative and destructive form of meditation) uses energy resources inefficiently, exacerbates depressive symptoms, exaggerates time ‘lost’ in a depressive episode, and increases vulnerability to future episodes (Levens et al., 2009; Michl et al., 2013).

Prospection is the mental and emotional simulation of possible futures (Roepke & Seligman, 2016). The automatic activity of healthy prospection assists in problem-solving, decision-making, and self-regulation.

While engaging in prospection, individuals rehearse potential future outcomes and pre-experience the corresponding emotions (e.g., anxiety, joy, hopelessness, excitement) that match the content of their visualizations.

When prospection activity is dysfunctional, individuals focus intently on representations of negative content with unfavorable future outcomes and experience tumultuous emotional correspondents, which exacerbates negative affect and depressive symptoms and feeds a vicious cycle (Roepke and Seligman, 2016).  

Similar to Beck’s “negative cognitive triad” (1979, pp. 259), researchers specify three equally dysfunctional styles of prospection that interact to fuel depressive symptoms.

These include the conjuring of images that portray catastrophic futures, the pessimistic analyzation of the details of these harmful future events, and negative inclinations toward having unhelpful attitudes regarding the future that are based on irrational beliefs and expectations (Roepke & Seligman, 2016).

The habitual construction of negative future scenarios encourages mental and emotional preparedness for events that have not yet occurred, which precipitates a much broader scope of negative future expectations and increases the level of negative emotional states that are pre-experienced during simulations.

Being concerned, even frightened is not the issue here; it is the consistently negative content in the patterns of the future simulations which tyrannize the mind that leads to cognitive and emotional impairment (McIntyre & Cha, 2016).

I do agree that a certain amount of balanced realism is necessary for useful reflection, honest introspection, and adaptive functioning.

Individuals who are inclined toward negative future expectations predetermine worst-case scenarios and fabricate reasons as to why the worst is more likely to occur compared to alternative scenarios that are of positive content (Roepke & Seligman, 2016).

Faulty prospection differs in comparison to other cognitive vulnerabilities (e.g., negative attributional style) in that it is strictly future-oriented (Roepke & Seligman, 2016).

Summary and Conclusion

After reviewing the literature and considering my personal experience as an individual who continues to live with the lasting effects of severe trauma, of which depression is a known comorbidity (Morris, Compas, & Garber, 2012), my interpretation of this review is that genetic polymorphisms (i.e., mutations), alterations in neuroplasticity, anatomical deficiencies and functional impairments of brain region structures, disruption to biochemical and ion transport within glial cells and the impedance of neurochemical transmission along neuro- circuitry pathways, are the results of biological maladaptive reactions to stress.

The expressions of these stable, genetic traits contribute to greater degrees of vulnerability to depressive disorders and other psychiatric diseases and are transferred from generation to generation in the form of mutated alleles within the DNA coding.

I concur: Genetics and stress appear to increase an individual’s vulnerability to his or her development of depression and depressive disorders, but the cause of the development of depression seems to be, not the cognitions themselves, but within the intricacies of the cognitive processing of new information before the cognitions are formed.

Exposure to stressful life events triggers a system that exists before a response is given and this system is activated before the appearance of depressive symptoms (Beck & Alford, 2009; Lau et al., 2004; McIntyre & Cha, 2016; Monroe & Simons, 1991; Patten, 2013; Rubenstein et al., 2016; Scher et l., 2005; Seeds & Dozois, 2010).

It is in this small space, following the provocation of triggers and before symptoms present, that depression and a multitude of other affective disorders are treated effectively with various modalities built on the foundation of Beck’s cognitive therapy (Beck, 1991; Butler et al., 2006; Hollon, 2010; MacKenzie & Kocovski, 2016; Morrison, 2014; Teasdale, Segal & Williams, 1995).

Although depression and depressive disorders consist of and are driven by multiple factors (Beck & Bredemeir, 2016), many of which are not covered here (e.g., chronic pain, grief, substance abuse) there is a dearth of empirical evidence supporting cognitive-behavioral theories of depression causation (Beck & Bredemeir, 2016), in comparison to empirical evidence which supports biological theories of depression causation (Januar et al., 2015).

My conclusion is that several of these factors (i.e., vulnerabilities) may be present before depression symptoms appear and that symptoms are subsequent to the presence of cognitive impairments, which I believe is the root of depression symptom causation that can be treated effectively using one of many forms of cognitive therapy or cognitive-behavior therapy , which emphasizes the necessity to learn efficient coping strategies (Beck & Breidemeir, 2016; Elder & Mosack, 2011; Fossati et al., 2004; Krishnan & Nestler, 2010; Medina et al., 2016; Munafo, 2010; Selye, H., 1950; Weider & Selye, 1953; Zuckermann, M., 1999).

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