CBT Thinking Errors Part 1: What are Common Cognitive Distortions?

Cognitive Distortions Part 1

CBT Thinking Errors Part 1: What are Common Cognitive Distortions?

Our thoughts play a huge role in our mental health and well-being. But sometimes, our thoughts can be harmful and unhelpful. This can lead to problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and more.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a popular form of psychotherapy that helps people identify and change dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all interconnected, and that by changing one of these elements, we can indirectly change the others.  One of the main goals of CBT is to help people become aware of their cognitive distortions, or inaccurate thoughts that can lead to negative emotional reactions.

Cognitive Biases

We all have cognitive biases that lead us to make certain judgments or decisions. In some cases, these biases can be helpful – they allow us to make quick and efficient decisions. However, in other cases, these biases can lead to faulty thinking and judgment. This is known as cognitive distortion.  Cognitive distortion is a type of thinking error that can lead to inaccurate thoughts and judgments. These errors can be harmful and can cause significant distress. 

Cognitive Distortions

There are many different types of cognitive distortions, but some of the most common include: 

  1. Jumping to conclusions

When you jump to conclusions, you make assumptions without having all the information. This often leads to inaccurate conclusions and can cause a lot of distress. For example, you may assume that your partner is cheating on you based on very little evidence. 

  1. Catastrophising

Catastrophising is when you think the worst-case scenario will happen in any given situation and exaggerate the consequences of an event.. This can be paralyzing and often leads to anxiety and stress. For example, if you forget to bring your laptop to a meeting, you might catastrophise and think that you’ll be fired or lose the contract.

  1. Mental filtering: 

This is when we only focus on the negative aspects of a situation and ignore the positive ones. For example, if we get a bad review from our boss, we might filter out all the good things he said and focus exclusively on the one criticism. This is when you only see the negative aspects of a situation. In addition, you might focus exclusively on your mistakes and forget all of your accomplishments. 

  1. Disqualifying the positive: 

This is when you discount any positive feedback or evidence as being irrelevant or untrue. For example, you might dismiss a compliment by saying “Well, anybody could have done that.”

  1. Overgeneralization: 

This is when we take one negative event and apply it to all aspects of our life.  For example, if you get an ‘F’ on one of your tests, you might overgeneralize and assume that you’ll always fail in the class.

  1. Fortune telling: 

This is when we predict negative events that haven’t even happened yet, and often these predictions are based on our own biases and fears. For example, you might feed into your dread of going to a social gathering for the holidays and predict that you are going to have a terrible time and have no one to talk to.

  1. Personalization: 

This is when you think that you’re the only one who is having a problem or experiencing a negative event.  Personalization could also mean taking things too personally or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your fault.  For example, you walk into a room and believe that everyone fell silent because they had just been talking about you before you walked in.  Another example might be blaming yourself for not helping someone enough or being the reason someone else is suffering, when in reality their emotional state is out of your control.

  1. Mind reading: 

Mind reading is when you assume you know what people are thinking or feeling.  For example, if you see your coworker is annoyed, you might think back to a recent encounter you had with them and think that you are the reason they are annoyed.

Our thoughts determine our moods and emotions, which in turn affect our overall mental health. If we are constantly caught up in negative thinking patterns, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.  Fortunately, there are ways to change the way we think and improve our mental health.  In our next blog, we will explore ways of counterbalancing and transforming these thoughts into ones that are healthier and balanced- not too positive where they become inauthentic and disconnected from our realities and not too negative where we fall into a downward spiral.

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