Attention: This app does not replace the treatment with doctors and psychologists. The purpose of this app is to function as a complementary and self-help therapy combined with conventional therapy performed by specialists. Always seek a doctor or psychologist when facing mental / psychological problems.
Based on Cognitive Psychology, the 3Asks app will help you in combating depression and anxiety disorders such as: social anxiety, agoraphobia, panic disorder, through 3 central questions: When? What? and Why? Such questions promote a dialogue between you and your beliefs and thoughts that trigger the negative feelings you face. As an indirect result, this app also generates self-knowledge.
The first question should be answered by describing the situation in which you experienced negative feelings.
The question What? must be answered with the negative feelings and actions taken during this episode.
Finally, the question Why? allows you to investigate the thoughts and beliefs that triggered these bad feelings, as well as allowing you to converse with these beliefs, seeking to identify incorrect interpretations of the reality that originated them.
In this first step, you should describe the situation in which you experienced negative feelings as if you were a camera, just record the facts. You should not record your thoughts, justifications or judgments about who is responsible.
In 3Asks app, we named each of these negative situations as Episode. You should add a name to the episode in order to identify this later, the date and the time of day on which it occurred.
After the episode is created, you can write down the description of the situation in the field Description. This step comprises the When question.
Now, you should remember each of the feelings and physical sensations experienced during the episode, choose a word that best represent this feeling and write it down. The actions performed on the episode must also be registered.
In app, this step comprises the What question. You must enter the reactions (feeling, physical sensation or action) faced in the episode.
Our feelings and emotions experienced and actions performed are caused by our views, thoughts and beliefs about a specific situation and not by the situation itself. When we are experiencing positive emotions like happy, we are having positive thoughts. On the other hand, when we are experiencing negative emotions like anxious and depressed, we are having negative thoughts. In general, these thoughts occur automatically, without our being aware of them.
Caution: Sometimes we confuse feelings with thoughts and vice versa. For example, we can say, "I felt he was lying," this is not a feeling, this is a thought. Also sometimes we say, "I think I'm anxious," this is not a thought, it's a feeling, it causes a tightness in our chest. Feelings provoke a physical reaction in us, usually some sensation in our chest, in our heart. Because of this, popular wisdom says that feelings come from the heart.
In this step, bearing in mind the negative situation and your reactions experienced in it, you should try to identify which thoughts and beliefs were on your mind in this situation. "What was I thinking?" and "Why I experienced this reaction?" are the central questions. You will find that identifying your thoughts is a very difficult task, don't worry. One key tip is to use your feelings, when you come to the thought that triggered a reaction, you will feel an unpleasant feeling.
In app, this step comprises the Why question. You must enter your thought or belief that are the causes of your reactions experienced in this episode, i.e., all thoughts were on your mind in this situation.
The negative thoughts that cause us negative feelings and emotions can be categorized according to their characteristics. These categories are called unhelpful thinking styles. This is important to help you identify and change your unhelpful thoughts.
Next, I explain these unhelpful styles of thought:
Radicalisation: when we believe there is no middle ground, that the world is divided only between winners and losers, victorious and failed. E.g.: "I am a weak person and a failure because I have depression", "This person did not want to talk to me because I am a nasty person", "If I lose my job then I will be a failure", "If that girl does not want to date me then I am an ugly and uninteresting man", "If I win second, I'll be a loser".
Catastrophising: we see the situation as terrible, disastrous, unsolvable, when in reality it is not so. E.g.: "I feel depressed, this feeling will never pass", "Nobody talked to me today, no one should love me", "I feel a severe headache, I must be with cancer", "I'm late for my job, I'll be fired"
Comparation: when we observe the characteristics of the people around us and magnify them exaggeratedly by having certain characteristics, while we lower ourselves by not having such characteristics. E.g.: "This person is so happy and smiling while I am so sad and unhappy therefore I am a sick person".
Negative focusing: we focus only on the negative, even though good things have also happened. E.g.: "Today I'm glad, but this must be temporary", "This person praised me only for education, I do not deserve such praise", "I finished my work on time just by luck and not because I am competent".
Generalisation: based on just a single event or situation, we think things will always be like this. A tip to identify thoughts of this style is to observe keywords like: always and never. E.g.: "Because someone has ridiculed me in the past, people will always ridicule me", "Because I feel sad and tired in these last days, I will never feel joy again".
Fortune telling: when we are sure we know what will happen. E.g.:"If I say that I suffer from some mental illness, the others will laugh at me or will find me strange","If I start treatment for depression, I will not get results", "If I have to make an oral presentation, I will stutter and the audience will laugh at me."
Mind reading: when we think we know what goes on in other people's minds, their opinions and beliefs about us, when in fact this is impossible. E.g.: "If I say that I suffer from some mental illness, the others will think I am strange".
Other's empowerment: taking the offenses, criticisms, comments, and opinions of others as true when, in reality and often, they may not be. E.g.: "My father called me lazy when I revealed to him that I am depressed and so I do not have energy to work. If he spoke, this must be true."
The antidote to this kind of thinking is to question ourselves: "This person has said this to me, but so what?" , "What will these words change in my life?", "Does that prohibit me from working, going out to have fun, living my life?"
Pressuring: when we make unreasonable demands on ourselves, generating guilt and frustration because they are unattainable demands. We feel that we are forced to be in a certain way, to do something or to conquer something. Keywords to identify this type of thinking are should and must. E.g.: "I must lose 30 kg in a month", "I must not be tired or sad", "I should not be ashamed to talk to others".
Personalisation: blaming yourself for situations that are not really your fault. E.g: "I am 100% responsible for being depressed", "I'm 100% responsible for the group work not working out".
Labeling: when we adjectivate someone or ourselves just by a behavior in a specific situation. E.g: "Because you do not do well in a particular social situation, you judge yourself as an antisocial person", "A friend forgets your birthday in a single year and you judge him as inconsiderate", "a person does not give you a good day a single day and you judge him as rude".
Because what we feel is determined by our beliefs and thoughts, we can change the way we feel by changing our beliefs. For this, we need to rationally analyze our beliefs and thoughts to see if they are really true or just unreal and unhelpful interpretations.
The analysis begins by raising the evidence in favor of our thinking. "Why is this belief or thought true? Was it something that happened in the past?" is the key question to identify the arguments in favor of this belief or thought. On the other hand, to challenge this belief and to identify objections to it, we may ask ourselves, "Are the arguments in favor of this belief realistic?", "Has any fact or situation ever occurred in opposition to this thought?", "If a friend confess to having this thought or belief in the same situation, would you agree to this thought? If not, why?"
You do not need to analyze each of your beliefs and thoughts, only those that cause you more intense reactions.
In 3Asks app, when you create a belief or open one already registered for editing, the belief editing window opens. In the "Arguments" tab, you must record the evidence in favor of this belief, which makes it true for you. In the "Objections" tab, you must insert evidences contrary to this belief, which makes it false or unreal.
This ends this guide. I wish you luck in this difficult process against our anxieties.