Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(1):90

See related article on cognitive therapy for depression.

What is cognitive therapy?

Cognitive (say: KOG-na-tiv) therapy is when a doctor talks to you about your bad thoughts and helps you to replace them with good thoughts. This can put you in a better mood and stop you from being depressed.

How do I know if I am depressed?

You may be depressed if you do not like to do the things that usually make you happy, or if you have been feeling sad for about two weeks. You also may be depressed if you:

  • Can’t sleep.

  • Can’t concentrate.

  • Eat less or more than usual.

  • Feel tired.

If you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor. If you have thoughts about killing yourself, see your doctor right away.

Is this therapy better than medicine for depression?

Cognitive therapy is just as good if not better than medicine if you are depressed. Cognitive therapy also may help keep you from getting depressed again. If you are already taking medicine for depression, cognitive therapy still can help you if you have bad depression or if your depression won’t go away. If you think you may be depressed, your doctor can tell you if cognitive therapy is a good choice for you.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor.

Mind Over Mood, by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky

Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research

American Institute for Cognitive Therapy

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