The Cognitive

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A. pproach to Explaining Depression. Psychopathology – Unit 1. Characteristics of Depression. Depression is an affective . mood disorder. involving lengthy disruption of emotions. About 20% of people will suffer from some form of depression throughout their lifetimes, with women twice as vulnera.... ID: 527775 Download Presentation

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The Cognitive

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The Cognitive Approach to Explaining Depression

Psychopathology – Unit 1


Characteristics of Depression

Depression is an affective

mood disorder

involving lengthy disruption of emotions. About 20% of people will suffer from some form of depression throughout their lifetimes, with women twice as vulnerable as men.

At least 5 symptoms must be apparent every day for 2 weeks for depression to be diagnosed by a doctor, with an impairment in general functioning also evident. One of these symptoms must be a constant depressed mood or lessened interest in daily activities.


Types of Depression

Type of depression


Major depressive disorder

Severe but often short-term depression

Persistent depressive disorder

Long-term or recurring depression- also called dysthymic depression

Unipolar depression

Sufferers only experience depression and not manic episodes. Clinical symptoms usually occur in cycles.

Bipolar depression

Sufferers experience mixed episodes of mania and depression.


On the white boards

Using this mnemonic, recall the characteristics of depression

Emotional – WALL

Cognitive – CND

Behavioural – SPEWS

Cant remember? – then use your pack on pages 12 and 13


Depression- SPEWS CND WALL

Sleep disturbance. Concentration problemsPersonal hygiene Negative schemasEnergy-loss of. Death (thoughts of)Weight (gain or loss)Social impairment. Worthlessness Anger Loss of enthusiasm Lowered mood


The Cognitive Approach

The underlying assumption of the cognitive explanation is that depression is the result of disturbance in ‘thinking’.


terms of understanding abnormality, cognitive psychologists are most concerned with how


thinking leads to a mental disorder.


depression is very much characterised by faulty and negative thinking, cognitive explanations are particularly appropriate.


The Cognitive Approach

There are two examples of the cognitive approach to explaining depression

developed by:



(1962) – ABC Model

Aaron Beck

– Cognitive Triad

In pairs, take one explanation. Read through it and understand it.

Then explain it to your partner.

The catch is you can’t use notes…


Cognitive explanation of Depression

Depression is the result of a disturbance in thinking

What three things make up Ellis’ ABC model?


ctivating event,





What might a depressed person think if their friend did not return a text?

Give an example of ‘


’ thinking (Ellis)

I must get an A* on this test or there’s no point me being at college

What is meant by negative schema? (Beck)

A mental framework in which we interpret information – like a unit of knowledge or stereotype.

Give an example of the cognitive bias of catastrophising

‘Oh no, I didn’t put enough salt in the starter and now the whole dinner party is ruined’

What three things make up the negative triad?

The Self, the World, the Future


Ellis’ ABC Model (1962)


Beck’s Cognitive Triad

Negative Self-SchemasCognitive biasesThe Negative Triad

The world

The future

The self



What evidence is there to suggest faulty cognitions play a role in depression?

Do irrational thoughts cause depression or does depression cause irrational thoughts?

Who does the cognitive approach blame for depression experienced? Why

is this approach seen as a more positive/useful approach than a biological approach?

Why is this a problem?

THINK: how might biological factors be involved in the development of depression?



This activity is designed for you to create

developed evaluations

that show consideration of two sides of an argument.

I would like you to record your ideas in your

own words

do not copy from the pack! The point of the PES has been done for you.

This activity is essentially planning an evaluation section to the essay title:

Describe and evaluate the cognitive approach as an explanation of depression” (16 marks)


Evidence exists…


et al. (2001)

monitored students’ negative thoughts with the Beck depression inventory (BDI), finding that depressives misinterpret facts and experiences in a negative fashion and feel hopeless about the future, giving support to Beck’s cognitive explanation.


et al. (2005)

presented participants with either a positive, negative or neutral word on a screen, after which a square appeared and participants pressed a button to say which area of the screen the square appeared in. Depressed participants took longer to disengage from the negative words than non-depressed participants, which suggest that depressives were focusing more on the negative words in line with Beck’s theory.


Yes, but…

Most evidence linking negative thinking to depression is correlational and doesn’t indicate negative thoughts causing depression. So it is still unclear whether there is a cause and effect relationship. Does depression cause negative thinking? Or do negative thoughts cause depression? Beck came to believe it was a bi-directional relationship, where both elements influence each other.


Responsibility with patient…

The cognitive approach has shown to be successful in

treating depression

with cognitive therapies

allowing the person to challenge components of the negative triad




is a very complex disorder and although both Beck and Ellis’ theories attempt to explain why some people appear to be more vulnerable to depression as a result of their cognitions

they do not explain all aspects of depression



example, the cognitive approach does not consider the role of biological factors, such as a chemical imbalance in the brain as a cause of depression. There is a lot of research to support the role of low serotonin levels and a genetic vulnerability in depressed people.


Knowledge check activity

Outline Ellis’ ABC model (4 marks)

What is meant by the term mustabatory thinking? Give examples in your answer (4 marks)

Explain why mustabatory thinking increases the likelihood of depression and what it is (4 marks)



cognitive triad (4 marks)


Exam practice


has just been diagnosed with depression having felt overwhelmed with despair for the last 12 weeks. His doctor suggested that the cause of this was the fact that Ewan’s long-term partner walked out on him three months ago. When this happened, Ewan convinced himself that he would never find himself another boyfriend.

Using Ellis’ ABC model, explain why Ewan is suffering from depression (6 marks)


Becks negative triad

On the following slide are some true or false questions

If it is true then


on the answer

If it is false then


the statement.

Group 1- statement 1+2

Group 2- statement 3+4

Group 3- statement 5+6

Group 4- statement 7+1

Group 5- statement 2+3

Group 6- statement 4+5

If you finish

: what are the

similarities and differences between Beck and Ellis’



True or False?

1.Aaron Beck developed a cognitive explanation for all mental disorders.

2. Beck believed that if our thinking is biased towards negative interpretations of the world, we are likely to suffer from depression.

3. A schema is a cognitive framework that helps organise and interpret information. Schemas help us to make sense of the world.

4. Depressed people have developed a negative schema during childhood.

5. Negative schemas are activated whenever a person encounters a new situation that resembles the original conditions in which the schemas were learned

6. Negative schemas lead to systematic behavioural biases

7. Negative schemas and cognitive biases maintain what Beck calls the negative triad: a pessimistic and irrational view of the four key elements in a person’s belief system.



False: explanation focused specifically on depression

True: depressed patients also lack any perceived control over events in the world

True: could give an example e.g. schema for restaurant means we know how to act when visiting a new establishment for dinner

False: developed during childhood due to a variety of factors, including parental/peer rejection, criticism by teachers

True: example of expecting to fail (schema) and exam (event) could be given

False: leads to ‘cognitive biases’ in thinking

False: there are three key elements.


Key Terms

Choose 6 of the following words and write a brief description of them, linking to describe cognitive explanations of depression.

Irrational thoughts


Activating event


Negative self schemas


The negative triad

Self-blame schema

Irrational Belief

Mustabatory thinking

Cognitive bias



Plenary: AO1 ‘selectivity’ task

“Describe and evaluate the cognitive approach as an explanation of depression” (16 marks)Plan what you would write in the AO1 section for this exam question. There is lots of information in your pack so you must select 6 key terms that you think are the most important things to include. You have to summarise these in approx. 25 words. Remember it is only worth 6 marks! This activity should be done with no notes but you can discuss in pairs or on your table.

Key term

Summary (25


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