The cognitive approach to explaining depression - Ellis's model

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  • Ellis's ABC model
    • A) Activating event
      • Irrational thoughts triggered by external events
      • E.g: failing an important test or ending a relationship
      • We get depressed when we experience negative events and these trigger negative beliefs
    • B) Beliefs
      • 'Musturbation' - we must always succeed or achieve perfection
      • 'I-can't-stand-it-itis' - it is a major disaster when something doesn't go smoothly
      • Utopianism - life is always meant to be fair
    • C) Consequences
      • E.g: if you believe you must always succeed and then fail at something this can trigger depression
      • Emotional and behavioural consequences when an activating event triggers irrational beliefs
    • Albert Ellis (1962) suggested a different cognitive explanation of depression
    • Proposed that good mental health is the result of rational thinking (thinking that allows people to be happy and free of pain)
    • Evaluation
      • A partial explanation
        • Some cases of depression follow activating events (reactive depression)
        • Different from the kind of depression that arises without an obvious cause
        • Ellis's explanation only applies to some kinds of depression and is therefore only a partial explanation
      • It has a practical application in CBT
        • Has lead to successful therapy
        • By challenging irrational negative beliefs, a person can reduce their depression - supported by research evidence (Lipsky et al. 1980)
        • Supports the basic theory because it suggests that the irrational beliefs had some role in the depression
      • It doesn't explain all aspects of depression
        • Ellis explains why some people appear to be more vulnerable to depression than others as a result of their cognitions
        • Doesn't easily explain the anger, hallucinations and delusions
  • Evaluation extra
    • Cognitive primacy
      • Share the idea that cognition causes depression
      • Closely tied up with the concept of cognitive primacy (idea that emotions are influenced by cognitions)
      • Not always the case
      • Other theories see emotion as stored like energy to emerge after causal event
    • Attachment and depression
      • Studies show infants that develop insecure attachments are more vulnerable to depression in adulthood


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