Patterns of Depression – Part Three

The last two months, I highlighted several characteristics of depressed people from the book Breaking the Patterns of Depression by Michael D. Yapko.  Here is another characteristic the author identified, followed by my thoughts on how this might relate to depression in individuals who are late-deafened.

Depressed people often have distortions in their perceptions about what they can and cannot control.   Control is defined as the power a person believes he or she possesses in a given situation.   Sometimes individuals underestimate their power in life situations.   They do not control things that can be controlled. Or, individuals overestimate their power and try to control things that cannot be controlled.  Both errors in judgement can trigger a depressive episode.

Things happened in my early childhood that led me to believe I had no control. By the time I became a young adult a strong need to be in control raged inside of me. Then deafness happened.  I journeyed back to the time period in my life when I learned about helplessness.  “Learned helplessness” is an interesting theory in psychology. Seligman found that research subjects, when exposed to painful events, tried to avoid the stimuli and eventually gave up trying.  In regards to becoming deaf, I guess you could say I initially gave up without trying.    There were many times I underestimated my ability to control things that were in my power to control.  A simple telephone call triggered a depressive episode.  I permitted external factors, such as the quality of the connection, environmental noise, and the speed and clarity of speech to control rather than learn other ways to make telephone calls.  At the other end of the spectrum, alternative ways to telephone, such as through the relay with a teletypewriter, represented a threat to my illusion of control.  I did not want to depend on a third person to facilitate the conversation.  At those times I overestimated my power and was not accepting that there were things beyond my ability to control.  Depression followed.

Yasik states that everyone in life who is effective is controlling, but NOT in all situations.  To avoid depression, the key is to distinguish the situations that are controllable from those which are not.

Yapko, M. (1997).  Breaking the patterns of depression.  New York: Doubleday.

(A reprint of an article I wrote 20 years ago, when I was the founding President of ALDA-Suncoast of Florida, a support group for people who have become deaf.  The article appeared in the newsletter, ALDA-Sun. At the time, I was going back to school to change professions from being a foreign language teacher to becoming a mental health counselor.)