Cognitive behavioural theory - Depression
Although Seligman’s account may explain depression to a certain extent, it fails to take into account cognitions (thoughts).
ABRAMSON et al (1978) consequently revised the learned helplessness theory to the HOPELESSNESS THEORY.
Abramson argued that people who attribute (explaining the cause of something) failure to internal, stable, and global causes are more likely to become depressed than those who attribute failure to external, unstable and specific causes. This is because the former attributional style leads people to the conclusion that they are unable to change things for the better.
PEOPLE WITH DEPRESSION: internal: blame self, stable: can’t change, global: apply to life
PEOPLE WITHOUT DEPRESSION: external: outside of control, unstable: won’t stay the same, specific: apply to one scenario.
An example of hopelessness theory
Failing an exam
Internal: I'm really bad at this, I'm stupid
External: I had a headache, it was a bad exam, maybe I didn't revise enough
Stable: I won't get any better/smarter - no point trying
Unstable: I'll try again, hopefully I won't have a headache and I will revise more
Global: I won't do anything with my life because I've failed
Specific: The problem lies on that day and with that exam
Seligman (1974) found that those students who adopted the internal, stable and global attributional style were much more likely to become depressed if they failed an exam, than those with the opposite style of external, unstable and specific.
Questionnaires assessing peoples’ attributional style in response to life’s adversities can predict their future susceptibility to depression (Kinderman and Bentall, 1977)
However, Gotlib and Colby (1995) found that people who were formerly depressed are actually no different from people who have never been depressed in terms of their tendencies to view negative events with an attitude of helpless resignation. This suggests that helplessness could be a symptom rather than a cause of depression. Moreover, it may be that negative thinking generally is also an effect rather than a cause of depression.