This is my second week as an in-patient on a weight restoration program for my eating disorder. Now that the fog is starting to clear, I can actually form complete sentences. Who knew that food could feed the brain, go figure 😉
In group, we use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to assess our thoughts by writing “thought records”. It’s kind of like a diary to determine whether your thoughts are disordered or objective.
The following is an explanation from one of my handouts from Mind Over Mood by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky:
In many ways, automatic thoughts are similar to flowers and weeds in a garden. Thought records, experiments and action plans are tools that enable you to cut the weeds (negative automatic thoughts) at ground level from your garden, making room for the flowers. With practice, these tools will work for you for the rest of your life. Whenever the weeds flourish in your garden, you will know how to work with them.
- First write down your situation or trigger. For example, a friend suggested going swimming.
- Then you write down your current moods. For example, if you felt fear or panic you would rate the intensity from (0 to 100%).
- Then you identify your automatic thoughts, these are messages that we tell ourselves. For example, you could say that you are afraid that everyone will look at you and know what a failure you are.
- The next part is where you write down any evidence that supports your automatic thought. This would include objective factual evidence to support your conclusion. Think about what someone else would think from an alternate perspective. Try to avoid mind-reading or interpretations of facts.
- Then you write down any subjective evidence that does NOT support your automatic thought. This would include any thoughts based on feelings or coloured by distortions. Consider any assumptions, mind-reading, self-blame, contradictions or past experiences that might contradict reality. Think about what you would tell a loved one. What will you think in 5 years? For example, if you are afraid that people will think you are a failure, you could say that you are mind-reading or assuming that people are judging you based on what you look like in a bathing suit.
- The next step is to modify your automatic thought to reach a reasonable conclusion. This is usually an alternative or balanced thought. This becomes your revised core belief to redirect positive change. Core beliefs are rules that guide our actions and behaviours at the deepest level of cognition. Consider how someone else would feel. What would you say to a friend with this same thought? Is this thought useful? Does it impact your life? For example, you could say that the important people in your life do NOT care what you look like in a bathing suit. You could also say that your self worth is not based on your appearance. This will become your mantra, or positive affirmation that you tell yourself to undo the negative.
- The last step is to re-rate your moods. After time, you will find that your negative moods will gradually decrease and you will be able to differentiate between disordered thoughts and healthy thoughts.
Use thought records to identify common themes, moods and behaviours. This is a great way to avoid engaging in ED behaviours and learn to remove the weeds by the roots.