- 10 Cognitive Distortions Sabotaging Your Brain
- 10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SUMMARY
- Learn More About this Topic
- What Are Cognitive Distortions? (With 10 Examples) | UPMC HealthBeat
- What Are Cognitive Distortions?
- The 10 Most Common Cognitive Distortions
- 1. Engaging in catastrophic thinking
- 2. Discounting the positive
- 3. Emotional reasoning
- 4. Labeling/mislabeling
- 5. Mental filtering
- 6. Jumping to conclusions
- 7. Overgeneralization
- 8. Personalization
- 9. Polarized or black-and-white thinking
- 10. “Should” statements
- Challenging Cognitive Distortions
10 Cognitive Distortions Sabotaging Your Brain
Have you ever thought about your thoughts? I mean, have you actually ever paid attention to the thoughts inside your head? If you have, then have you ever questioned how you are thinking about things, and whether or not these thoughts are actually helping or hindering you? Possibly how you’re seeing and interpreting your world isn’t very accurate at all. Just maybe your perspective of the world is somewhat flawed and this is preventing you from moving forward in an optimal way. These flaws in our thinking are known as cognitive distortions or thinking errors. Here are 10 cognitive distortions and how to avoid them.
Mental Filtering is a cognitive distortion where we tend to filter things our conscious awareness. We choose for instance to focus on the negative events rather than on the positive outcomes of a situation.
Or in other words, we choose to focus on what’s not working, rather than on what is working. Therefore the way we perceive and interpret reality is a flawed negative perspective that is preventing us from seeing things clearly.
In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, you must get into the habit of persistently looking for the good within every situation.
Jumping to Conclusions is a cognitive distortion where we tend to make irrational assumptions about people and circumstances. We for instance assume that something will happen in the future (predictive thinking), or assume that we know what someone else is thinking (mind reading).
The problem is that these conclusions are rarely if ever facts or concrete evidence, but rather personal feelings and opinions. As a result, they can often lead us astray.
In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion you must begin questioning whether other explanations or possibilities exist.
Personalization is a cognitive distortion where we consistently take the blame for absolutely everything that goes wrong with our life. Whenever anything doesn’t work out as expected, we immediately take the blame for this misfortune — irrelevant of whether or not we are responsible for the outcome.
Taking responsibility for our life and circumstances, is of course quite admirable, but at the same time completely unhelpful if we end up feeling a victim of circumstance.
In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, question what part you played in the outcome and how you might not be entirely to blame.
Black and White Thinking is a cognitive distortion where we tend to see things as all-or-nothing. Things are either good or bad, right or wrong. In other words, we only see the extremes of the situation. We either see one extreme or another — there is no middle ground, nor shades of gray.
This is an unhelpful way of thinking about things because it means that we never truly see circumstances in an unbiased and neutral way.
In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, you must get into the habit of challenging yourself to take into account other viewpoints and interpretations of the situation.
Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion where we tend to blow circumstances proportion. In other words, we make things out to be a lot worse than they should be. Now of course, the reality of our predicament might actually be very different.
The problem we face may in fact be quite an insignificant minor mishap. However, because we indulge in the habit of catastrophizing, we always make problems larger than life, which of course makes them incredibly difficult to overcome.
In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, question whether things are truly as bad as you make them out to be.
Overgeneralization is a cognitive distortion where we tend to make broad generalizations that are a single event and minimal evidence. More specifically, it’s the tendency to use our past experiences as a reference point for making assumptions about present or future circumstances.
In other words, you are essentially using a past event to predict the future. For instance, whenever you say that “Everyone always… She never…” this highlights an overgeneralization.
In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, question whether evidence exists that suggests things could be different.
Labeling is a cognitive distortion where we tend to make global statements about ourselves or about others situation specific behavior. Now of course, how we label things often mirrors our internal belief systems. In fact, the more we tend to label something, the stronger the belief systems at play.
This is unhelpful because our labels are often past experiences and personal opinions, rather than on hard facts and evidence.
In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, you must challenge yourself to find the evidence that disproves the label you’re making in this particular situation.
Shoulding and Musting is a cognitive distortion where we tend to make unrealistic and unreasonable demands on ourselves, and on others. You might for instance say, “I must… I should… You must… You should…”.
These statements put undue pressure on you, and on other people to meet your high personal standards and expectations in specific situations. This is unhelpful because it sets people up for failure, and also doesn’t take into account other alternatives.
In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, question whether things must be done a certain way. Possibly there is another way that you hadn’t yet considered.
Emotional Reasoning is a cognitive distortion where we tend to interpret our experience of reality based upon how we are feeling in the moment. Therefore how we feel about something effectively shapes how we perceive and interpret the situation we find yourself in.
This is of course unhelpful because it means that our mood always influences how we experience the world around us. Our emotions therefore effectively become a barometer for how we view our life and circumstances.
In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, question whether your emotional state-of-mind is preventing you from seeing things clearly.
Magnification and Minimization is a cognitive distortion where we tend to magnify the positive attributes of another person, while minimizing our own positive attributes. You talk-down all your positive attributes and accomplishments in order to lower people’s expectations.
In other words, you are effectively devaluing yourself, while at the same time putting the other person on a pedestal. Having humility is of course a wonderful thing, but not to the detriment of your own self-esteem.
In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, challenge yourself to find reasons why you are deserving and capable.
10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS SUMMARY
Everything always begins with a thought. How we think and how we interpret the world around us influences how we feel. And how we feel stirs up our emotions. We then use those emotions as a filter that helps us interpret our life experiences. These interpretations are of course varied and often not very accurate.
In fact, they can prevent us from seeing the world “how it is”, and instead force us to perceive the world “how we are”. And of course how we are depends entirely on how we process the world, which of course begins with the thoughts we allow ourselves to dwell upon.
Take charge of those thoughts by working through these 10 cognitive distortions, and you take charge of your life.
Imagine for a moment you could develop new habits and methods of thinking where you naturally and effortlessly take control of these 10 cognitive distortions. How would that make you feel? Would you feel more fulfilled, empowered and in control?
Yes, there is such simplicity within this IQ Doodle, but of course there is a reason for that. Making positive change doesn’t need to be a complicated process. It just needs to be a consistent process where we progressively develop new habits-of-mind through repeated exposure and implementation. And that’s what these IQ Doodles are for.
We have prepared for you an IQ Doodle pack that includes several variations of this IQ Doodle that you can use for guidance and inspiration to help you overcome these 10 cognitive distortions.Use it consistently and you will begin making positive changes in the way you live, work and interact with others.
Visit the IQ Doodle Store to learn more about how to use this IQ Doodle to work through these 10 cognitive distortions and begin optimizing the way you live your life today.
Learn More About this Topic
Want to know more about this topic? Here are some helpful links to articles that you may find of value:
What Are Cognitive Distortions? (With 10 Examples) | UPMC HealthBeat
Depending on how we interpret events, our minds can sometimes play tricks on us. They can convince us of things that aren’t true, even though they feel rational to us.
When these inaccurate beliefs influence our thoughts, emotions, and actions, we can feel anxious, stressed, angry, or depressed about ourselves (or the world around us). These faulty beliefs are known as cognitive distortions.
What Are Cognitive Distortions?
Anyone can experience cognitive distortion, which the American Psychological Association defines as “faulty or inaccurate thinking, perception or belief.” Negativity is often the defining characteristic.
For some of us, distorted thinking is a momentary blip. We get upset when we fail a math test. We briefly reason that we’re bad at math, instead of realizing we need to study more. But we typically move on and try again.
For others, cognitive distortions are a pattern of thinking that interferes with their lives and relationships. In these cases, distorted thinking can lead to chronic anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems such as misuse of substances.
The 10 Most Common Cognitive Distortions
Let’s review some common cognitive distortion examples. You might see your own thought patterns reflected here, or they may describe someone you know.
1. Engaging in catastrophic thinking
You to expect the worst outcome in any situation. You often find yourself thinking, “What if…?” If your child misses curfew, you imagine he’s been in a car accident. If your boss schedules a meeting, you worry you’ll be fired. And your thinking spirals from there: You may think of losing your child. Getting fired means you’ll become homeless.
2. Discounting the positive
When something goes right — say you get a promotion — you acknowledge it but refuse to take credit. Instead, you chalk it up to dumb luck or a mistake. Or, you receive many positive comments on an evaluation, but choose to focus on a single piece of negative feedback.
3. Emotional reasoning
You rely on “gut” feelings over objective evidence to judge yourself and the world. For example, “I feel a bad mother, therefore I must be a bad mother.”
You often define yourself and others with negative labels. In assigning labels, you focus on one past behavior or event. Your co-worker is “lazy” because they came to work late. You’re “stupid” because you failed the math test.
5. Mental filtering
You view yourself, your life, and your future through a negative lens. You ignore anything positive. Filtering can increase feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
6. Jumping to conclusions
You base your decisions not on what someone says or does, but on what you believe they’re thinking. You believe you can read minds or anticipate reactions. You don’t ask what the other person thinks or feels.
Fortune-telling is another form of cognitive distortion related to jumping to conclusions. You insist you can predict the future, regardless of what you do. You’ll be famous without putting in the hard work. Or you’ll always be a failure, so hard work is a waste of time.
People who overgeneralize apply their experience from one event to another. If your marriage ended in divorce, you think you’re not worthy of love. As a result, you might conclude you should never date again.
If people often tell you, “stop taking this so personally,” then you ly experience personalization. You blame yourself for things outside of your control. You falsely believe that everything that someone says or does is a direct reaction to you. Personalization can convince you that you are being targeted or excluded. It can also cause you to compare yourself to others.
9. Polarized or black-and-white thinking
This kind of thinking deals in extremes. People and situations are either great or terrible. You believe you’re either destined for success or failure. You don’t allow room for balanced perspectives or outcomes.
10. “Should” statements
You have a list of rules for how people should and shouldn’t behave. Constantly blaming yourself or others for what “should” have been said or done (but wasn’t) can increase stress and anxiety. You will never be happy if you always focus on what “should” have been.
Challenging Cognitive Distortions
Cognitive behavioral therapy is widely used to help break the cycle of distorted thinking. A trained psychotherapist can work with you to retrain your brain to identify and challenge cognitive distortions using thought records, cognitive restructuring exercises, and behavioral exercises.
For more information, call UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital at 1-877-624-4100 or 412-624-1000.
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David Berle. Does Emotional Reasoning Change During Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Anxiety? Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Link
Laura L. Fazakas-DeHoog. A Cognitive Distortions and Deficits Model of Suicide Ideation. Europe's Journal of Psychology. Link
Melina Andrea del Pozo. Cognitive Distortions in Anorexia Nervosa and Borderline Personality Disorder. Psychiatry Research. Link
Mohamad El Haj. False Memory in Alzheimer's Disease. Behavioral Neurology. Link
Olimpia Matarazzo. The Gambler's Fallacy in Problem and Non-Problem Gamblers. Journal of Behavioral Addictions. Link