All or nothing thinking is one of the more persistent and sneaky habits of many depressed people. I think it’s pretty common in the larger population too (“Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good,” etc.) but for us it can be particularly damaging, in part because depression is NOT an “all or nothing” disease. It’s a disease of degrees. A disease of increments, of changes so small that only in aggregate do they become visible to the human eye.
Of course, when we’re suffering from depression we’re really easily overwhelmed, and there are few things more overwhelming and discouraging than thinking about perfection.
I’ve used it for big things…
“I’ll never really feel better so why should I seek treatment?”
and little things…
“I’ll never be as good of a cook as my mom so… oof. I’m skipping dinner.”
It justifies inaction. It encourages our tendency toward hopelessness.
Nowadays I try to call it what it is. I notice it all the time, and I’m sure I often fail to notice. It comes up when I’m trying to set goals, when I look at a list and find myself obsessing over the best order in which to do things.
Like flashbacks, though, I find that giving it a name is really powerful. And sometimes I’m able to think to myself, Nope. You’re not Cindy Crawford, but you should go ahead and take that shower.