Cognitive distortions are irrational and exaggerated thought patterns. It is simply our mind convincing us of something that isn’t actually true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions. We all engage in these distortions from time to time and they control our lives and emotions. Individuals with or without mental health concerns are susceptible, but individuals who suffer from severe depression, psychotic disorders, or mood disorders can be more susceptible to these distortions of thinking than others.
There are multiple distortions that we engage in, here are 7 of the most common ones:
- Polarized thinking. Everything is black or white, all or nothing. It is difficult to be flexible and open your mind to alternatives. You are either perfect or a failure, there are no shades of gray.
- Filtering. This is when you dwell on all the negatives of a situation and ignore all the positive. This usually occurs when you already have a negative perception about the situation.
- Overgeneralization. This occurs when we make a conclusion based on one single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again.
- Personalization. This distortion is when you think that everything someone says or does is about you personally. For example, the elderly man driving in front of you going 5 mph under the speed limit is just purposely trying to slow you down and get on your nerves.
- Catastrophizing. Thinking that a situation is more negative than it actually is. You tend to exaggerate the reality of situations without considering the fact that perhaps the situation is not as bad as you thought it was.
- Jumping to conclusions. Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. For example, your husband falls asleep on the couch one night and you begin to think he is mad at you and wants a divorce.
- Entitlement beliefs. The belief that you have the right to have, do, or get something. When someone feels entitled, there is little room for consideration of others thoughts, behaviors, or feelings. It can be very damaging to interpersonal relationships.
By learning to correctly identify this kind of irrational thinking, a person can then answer the negative thinking back, and refute it. By refuting the negative thinking over and over again, it will slowly diminish overtime and be automatically replaced by more rational, balanced thinking.
Licensed Mental Health Counselors can help you learn how to recognize this distorted thinking and how to avoid it. Cognitive distortions are one of the most common reasons for depression, anxiety, and lack of communication in relationships. Get the help you deserve!