Mental Health Blog

The Three P’s of Depression

Posted by Andrew Huber on


Here at CPCC, we see many people who fall into the trap of depressive thinking.  Sure, not everyone struggles from a verifiable, clinically diagnosable depression, but many people fall into that downward spiral when thinking about their lives.  Thankfully, it is easy to see the signs of such thinking if you know what to look for in thoughts.  I like to refer to Dr. Martin Seligman's work on the 3 P’s of depression as a helpful guide.  According to Seligman, depressed cognition usually boils down to three thoughts: Personal, Pervasive, and Permanent.  Each of these thoughts builds on one another into a potent, triple combination.

Personal thinking means that, instead of thinking of an external source of blame, a person might attribute the problem as a personal flaw.  Often, they might blame themselves for the situation more than what is appropriate.  Words like “it’s just because I’m so unlikable” or the subtler “they think I am shy” can sometimes bring us to a place of giving ourselves too much negative credit.

Pervasive thinking means that the negative issue is not pertaining to just one isolated incident but actually extends into many categories.  For instance, “this person does not like me so they won’t like me, either,” extends out the issue beyond the initial people to other people as well.

The final form of thinking is permanent thinking.  This belief means that the issue is also unending and fixed.  Whatever the issue, it cannot change or improve.  An example of this may be, “it is always going to be like this because that’s just the way it is.”

It is easy to see how combining these three forms of thinking can cause depression.  The full thought becomes “not only do certain people not like me for being me, but other people will not like me for being me, and they never will.”  The impact of that sentence and ones like it, frequently hampers people from enjoying and growing in life.  So, keep these 3 P’s in mind as you hear yourself talk or someone close to you.


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