The Vortex of Darkness


The Vortex of Darkness is often the way people describe the feeling of depression especially when it has been a recurring pattern in their lives. Although there are many life factors that contribute to depression, it is also believed that genetics plays an important role in whether we have depression¹. Regardless of the cause though, people who have had depression tend to cycle in bouts where it is better and sadly, worse. Recognizing the patterns and interrupting them is a solid strategy for curbing the downward spiral.

Some of those early warning signs might be:

  • unexplained and profound sadness or being teary
  • ‘dark’ feelings such as despair, hopelessness, overwhelming guilt, or shame
  • ‘dark’ thoughts such as, “I can’t do this.”; “This is too much for me to handle.”; “I’m useless.”; “My situation will never get better.”
Crying woman seating at her desk in front of her laptop having an online call with her therapist. Covid-19 self isolation mode. Vector illustration

Feeling teary and not knowing why?

Strong negative sometimes black and white thinking, can generate the sad, bad feelings and make them even worse. This creates a negative feedback cycle which causes the downward spiral.

So what can we do to stop the cycle?

If you can recognize what you are thinking and say it out loud, or write it down, you are on the right path!

Cognitive Behaviour Theory tells us that once we notice our negative thoughts, we can understand how they affect our mood and our behaviour. They even affect how we feel physically. So when you notice you are sad, ask yourself, “What are the thoughts behind this feeling?”

When you know what the thoughts are, we can look at them more clearly to see if they represent a realistic view. For instance, the single mom who is holding it all together at work, for family and friends while never getting to recharge her battery, might tell herself, “I’m a failure” when her kids get in trouble at school. She doesn’t recognize all the amazing stuff she does every day. The ‘bad’ thought takes center stage and become the focus.

We all have coping strategies that affect the way we think about things. Sometimes we generalize by thinking that one bad event means everything is bad. Common patterns of thinking that can get us into trouble² include:

  • Jumping to conclusions,
  • Exaggerating or minimizing,
  • Ignoring important parts,
  • Oversimplifying,
  • Overgeneralizing,
  • Mind reading,
  • Emotional reasoning².

Counselling can help you identify when your thoughts are getting you down and teach you ways to handle those thoughts, which then helps change the feelings and how we act. If you are interested in getting help, reach out now. We have the tools to help.

¹ Burcusa SL, Iacono WG. Risk for recurrence in depression. Clin Psychol Rev. 2007 Dec;27(8):959-85. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2007.02.005. Epub 2007 Mar 3. PMID: 17448579; PMCID: PMC2169519.

² Resick, P. A., Monson, C. M., & Chard, K. M. (2017). Cognitive processing therapy for PTSD: A comprehensive manual. Guilford Press.

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