Tunnel Vision in depression (1 way to spot)

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In this blog we will discuss Tunnel vision in depression. 

We will also discuss what tunnel vision is, how it falls into the concept of cognitive distortions, and what one can do to overcome tunnel vision.

Tunnel Vision in depression

Tunnel vision in depression refers to one’s tendency to have a tunnel vision of despair when one is depressed- often marked by negative thoughts that are representative of hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness. 

Tunnel vision perspectives in depression refers to negative beliefs and perspectives such as:

  • “I am an absolute failure.  
  • No one loves me.  
  • Everyone thinks I am stupid.  
  • I will never be worth anything.  
  • This will never get better.”

These thoughts are painful and often are commonplace for those who struggle with depression to the point that people are haunted by them as they become increasingly intrusive. 

Tunnel vision thoughts and beliefs can get worse and the person can start to internalise it to the point that they consider suicide because they truely feel hopless and worthless. 

Tunnel vision can lead them to believe that it is better off if they are no longer in the world and because they are unable to see anything positive about themselves due to tunnel vision that is so focused on the negaitves in their life, it can lead to suicde.

In a study that explored the novel experience of tunnel vision in depression, study examined the effects of depression on negativity bias that was known to produce a narrowed field of view as well as make negative memories more potent to them.

The results of the study found that people with depression appear to experince a form of tunnel vision in their perception of what is happening to them and around them as well as a cognitive tunnel vision that increasingly elaborates their inhibited negative cognitive functioning which made them more prone to depression and suicide. 

When we consider tunnel vision in depression we see that it not only is a result of depression but this particualr study also find that people who have remitted from depression is more likley to expience another episode of depression when they have tunnel vision. 

What is Tunnel vision?

In the field of psychology, tunnel vision inherently refers to a certain kind of cognitive distortion or as Beck calls “Errors in thinking’. 

Cognitive distortions according to Cognitive behavioural theories of psychotherapy are biased perspectives that people have  about themselves and the world around them- including other people.

Tunnel vision perspectives in depression refers to negative beliefs and perspectives such as:

  • “I am an absolute failure.  
  • No one loves me.  
  • Everyone thinks I am stupid.  
  • I will never be worth anything.  
  • This will never get better.”

These are irrational thoughts and beliefs that we have unintentionally internalised and have been reinformedces as per our earlier experiences. 

These patterns of thought and belief systems are subtle and difficult to recognize because they are a regular feature of your day-to-day thoughts. 

Cognitive distortions come in many forms but they all have some things in common. They are patterns of thinking or believing which are inaccurate or false, and have the potential to cause psychological harm.

These distortions, when there is no intervention and are long term, can impact a person if they do not have the ability to identify, modify, and correct them.

Beck’s model of depression pushes forward the idea that individual with depression develop cognitive distortions or cognitive biases which are unhelpful and faulty- he referred to these biases as  Negative automatic thoughts.

These distortions are what leads them to misinterpret their experiences with the world around them as well as their own positive attributes leading them to develop a negative self schema about themselves as hopeless, worthless, and incapable. 

These cognitive distortions also lead them to experience negative feelings and impact their behaviours such as feelings of guilt and shame which drives their social withdrawal and lack of motivation. 

These errors and biases that we hold on to are often a result of our process of socialisation that reinforces these flare symptoms over time. 

These errors such as in the case of tunnel vision are often self defeating and are so subtle that many people do not know they are engaging in them and are part of one’s day to day life. 

How to overcome tunnel vision?

Here are some steps you can follow to overcome tunnel vision beliefs and thoughts:

Identify the thought for what it is 

When you come across a thought that is intrusive and distressing, don’t suppress it or try to reject them away. 

Instead acknowledge its existence in your mind and identify them for what they are- intrusive thoughts that are not really what you believe in, nor is it something that reflects your desire. 

Don’t fight it

As mentioned above, don’t fight it. Take notice of it, acknowledge it. Now acknowledging it is different from accepting it. 

Acknowledging a thought, is to understand that it is there in your mind but not rejecting it nor judging the thought. Simply observe the thought. 

The more you try to push away these thoughts, the more likely they will come back and the more likely that it will be more distressing. Let the thought be, and let yourself be. It will pass. 

Do not judge yourself for it

Understanding the thoughts does not reflect who you are or what you want. It does not tell you of anything that has to do with your person. 

Thoughts are only thoughts just as feelings are only feelings- they will come and they will do. So don’t judge yourself for these thoughts. Simply observe and acknowledge that this is something you experience as it will pass. 

These thoughts are inconsequential, just because you have it does not mean that it will happen or you will do what you are thinking that you will do. It is not a testament of your character or of who you are so dont judge yourself for it. 

Replace these thoughts with positive thoughts

Once you’ve let yourself be with these thoughts, replace these thoughts with something positive, something real. 

Take time to notice what is happening in the present. Instead of focusing on the what ifs, focus on what is and what you are doing at the moment and who you are in the present. 

Make positive lifestyle changes

Take care of yourself. Avoid drinking and doing drugs, instead eat a healthy diet that is full of nutrients and engage in exercise- this can be walks, joining the gym, or running a marathon. 

Make changes that benefit your physical health as well as allow you to engage with a positive crowd. If you think socialisation is not something you want to do, then there are plenty of exercises that you can do alone. 

Make sure you get good sleep by developing a healthy sleep hygiene as well. 

Focus on your strengths. 

Instead of spending your time on your negative thoughts or anticipating your intrusive thoughts, take time and effort to explore your positieve assets. Do this by journaling what strengths you have and this does not have to limit only to abilities but also innate strengths that a person has such as loyalty, civic sense, etc. 

Take time to develop an awareness of your strengths and appreciate yourself for them while also striving to build on these strengths and using them to overcome your challenges. 

Consider therapy

If your symptoms are debilitating or severe to the point where it is getting in the way of your day to day life, the most advisable thing you can do is to seek treatment from a mental health professional.

You will have the option of engaging in Behavioural change techniques used in behavioural therapy as well as cognitive behavioural therapy techniques which have enough evidence that set them as good treatment options for anxiety and specific phobia disorders. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed Tunnel vision in depression. 

We have also discussed what tunnel vision is, how it falls into the concept of cognitive distortions, and what one can do to overcome tunnel vision.

FAQ related to Tunnel Vision depression

What is tunnel vision depression?

In the field of psychology, tunnel vision inherently refers to a certain kind of cognitive distortion or as Beck calls “Errors in thinking’ and are biased perspectives that people have  about themselves and the world around them- including other people.

Tunnel vision in depression refers to one’s tendency to have a tunnel vision of despair when one is depressed- often marked by negative thoughts that are representative of hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness. 

What is tunnel vision in suicide?

In suicide, tunnel vison refers to cognitve patterns of thinking where suicidal people are unable the loved ones who will be deeply hurt or the friends who may feel betrayed because they are consumed by negative thoughts that are representative of hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness. 

What causes emotional tunnel vision?

Emotional tunnel vision can be caused by stress and anxiety as well as due to what  Beck calls “Errors in thinking’ and are biased perspectives that people have  about themselves and the world around them- including other people- marked by negative thoughts that are representative of hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness. 

How do I stop the tunnel vision mentality?

One of the best ways you can deal with tunnel vision mentality is to develop awareness. When you come across a thought that is intrusive and distressing, don’t suppress it or try to reject them away. Instead acknowledge its existence in your mind and identify them for what they are.Once you’ve let yourself be with these thoughts, replace these thoughts with something positive, something real. 

References

Lisa Bolshin, Nasreen Khatri, Jennifer Ryan, A-145 Tunnel Vision: A Novel Investigation of the Effect of Depression on Field of View, Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, Volume 36, Issue 6, September 2021, Page 1199, https://doi.org/10.1093/arclin/acab062.163

Katherine Helm. Column: How “Suicidal Tunnel Vision” Contributes To The Loss Of Cherished Life. The Black Wall Street Times. Retrieved on 30th April 2022. https://theblackwallsttimes.com/2022/02/07/column-how-suicidal-tunnel-vision-contributes-to-the-loss-of-cherished-life/

Cognitive Distortions and Thinking Errors – How Can CBT Help? KlearMinds. 28th November, 2014. Retrieved on 30th April 2022. https://www.klearminds.com/blog/cognitive-distortions-thinking-errors-can-cbt-help/

Beck, A. T. (1967). Depression: Causes and treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Beck, A. T., Epstein, N., & Harrison, R. (1983). Cognitions, attitudes and personality dimensions in depression. British Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy.

McLeod, S. A. (2019, January 11). Cognitive behavioural therapy. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-therapy.html

Kandola.A. What are intrusive thoughts? Medicalnewstoday. Retrieved on 30th April 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/intrusive-thoughts

Holland.K. Intrusive Thoughts: Why We Have Them and How to Stop Them. Healthline. Retrieved on 30th April 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/intrusive-thoughts

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