Another characteristic I've come across is Learned Helplessness. This is not an issue I suffer with but I found it to be sufficiently interesting as a lot of people suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder, depression and a many other mental illnesses deal with it.
What Seligman had discovered was that the dogs had "learned" from the early part of the experiment that the shocks occurred at random, were unavoidable and didn't depend on their own behavior. The dogs could, in fact, just jump out of the box to escape the shock but they had learned otherwise.
This kind of behavior pattern has since been demonstrated in humans if they have been exposed to punishments or discomforts which seem random and unavoidable. A feeling of helplessness and no power to improve one's circumstances is one of the key factors in depression.”
The mantra of the person who suffers from Learned Helplessness is: "What's the point in trying? I won’t be able to do it anyways. Nothing is going to change no matter what I do."
This actually ties in nicely to another bit of research I found on Generalized thinking and depression.
More research has found that while this theory is a good basis, it fails to take into account how people vary in their reactions to situations that can cause learned helplessness. For example, not all abuse victims develop PD traits or remain in a victimized state, but may grow to be even stronger people for the adversity. It can remain specific to one type of situation or it can be generalized for all situations. Although a group of people may experience the same or similar negative events, how each person privately interprets or explains the event will affect the likelihood of acquiring learned helplessness and subsequent depression. Why a person responds differently to adverse events is attributed to their explanatory style.
Explanatory style is a psychological attribute that indicates how people explain to themselves why they experience a particular event, either positive or negative. Psychologists have identified three components in explanatory style:
Permanent - This involves how one explains the extent of the cause. People may see the situation as unchangeable, e.g., "I always lose my keys" or "I never forget a face".
Whatever their origins, people who suffer from events that were beyond their control consistently see a disruption in their emotions, aggressions, physiology and a multitude of other areas of their lives. These helpless experiences can associate with passivity, uncontrollability and poor cognition in people, ultimately threatening their physical and mental well-being.
Unlearning helplessness is possible.
Learned helplessness can be minimized by "immunization" and potentially reversed by therapy. People can be immunized against the perception that events are uncontrollable by increasing their awareness of previous positive experiences. Cognitive behavioral therapy can often help people to learn more realistic explanatory styles, bolster self-esteem, and can help ease depression as well. What’s important here, then, is to develop a supportive relationship with someone close to you be it a friend, lover, spouse, or therapist. Communication is key. Let this person know that you think this is a problem. When this kind of pessimistic, helpless thinking begins to take over, let them know that these are the times you need reminding of positive experiences and accomplishments that validate a more functional mental attitude. When it always feels like nothing will change or be different, having those small reminders that, IN FACT, things have been different before and can be different again, can be a very powerful tool. It’s not an overnight fix, but it’s a start.