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Stress Management for Health Course

Stress and Automatic Negative Thoughts


Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs)


When we become stressed we can think more negatively.  Its important to remember that you might still occasionally have some of these thoughts when you are not depressed.  The difference is that you would generally dismiss them from your mind.  When you are depressed however, these thoughts are around all the time.


Lets look at these negative thoughts in more detail:


1.      Negative thoughts tend to be AUTOMATIC.  They are not actually arrived at on the basis of reason and logic, they just seem to happen.


2.      Often these thoughts are UNREASONABLE and UNREALISTIC.  They serve no purpose.  All they do is make you feel bad and they get in the way of what you really want out of life.  If you think about them carefully, you will probably find that you have jumped to a conclusion which is not necessarily correct.  For example, thinking someone doesnt like you because they havent phoned recently.


3.      Even though these thoughts are unreasonable they probably SEEM REASONABLE and correct to you at the time.


4.      The more you believe and accept negative thoughts, the WORSE YOU ARE LIKELY TO FEEL.  If you allow yourself to get into the grip of these thoughts, you find you are viewing everything in a negative way.


(Ref: Depression and Low Mood: A Self-help guide, Northumberland NHS 1999)


Automatic Negative Thoughts and Stress


Negative Automatic Thoughts have the following characteristics:


1.      They are automatic

They pop up in your head without effort.


2.      They are unhelpful

They maintain the depression and make it hard to change.


3.      They are believable

So much so that you dont think to question them.


4.      They are persistent

They can be very hard to switch off it takes effort.




Automatic Negative Thoughts


We all have automatic negative thoughts but these increase when we are stressed.  Automatic negative thoughts as the term says, can be automatic.  They are not based on logical reasoning, they just occur.  Automatic thoughts are habitual ways of thinking.


Automatic negative thoughts usually occur spontaneously.  When they dont, we can use any one of the following techniques to elicit them.


1.     Focus on the other components of the problem (mood, behaviour) and notice the associated thoughts.

2.     Focus on an image and notice what words come to mind.

3.     Use imagination in mentally recreating the situation, perhaps with someone else in your role.  Notice what thoughts you have.


(Ref http://open-mind)




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