Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn't really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves. Many people call these "thinking errors," but whatever you call them, they can be quite damaging if they go unchecked. However, if you take the time to identify what cognitive distortions are affecting you and learn how to challenge those thinking patterns, you'll be well on your way to living a happier life!
1) All-or Nothing Thinking
All-or-nothing thinking is when you see things in black and white.
For example, if you make a mistake on your task at work, you may feel like a failure for the entire day. You think that it’s impossible to succeed at anything else because of this failure. This type of thinking can be extremely damaging to your mental state as well as your ability to function in life or work.
It can prevent you from trying new things because there is no middle ground between success and total failure. It makes it difficult for people with all-or-nothing thinking to learn from their mistakes or accept constructive criticism because they see everything in terms of absolutes: either they are perfect or they are terrible at everything they do.
Overgeneralization is the process of generalizing from a single piece of evidence or event. If you have ever heard someone say that their boss is always mean, or that all their friends are unreliable, then you have witnessed overgeneralization in action. Overgeneralizations can be harmful because they stop us from seeing the full picture and encourage us to make negative conclusions about ourselves and others.
The best way to combat this cognitive distortion is by preventing it from occurring in the first place. If you find yourself making generalizations about yourself or others without any solid evidence, try setting aside those thoughts and focusing on what you know instead.
3) Mental Filter
Mental filtering is the process of focusing on one negative aspect of something, and then over-emphasizing it. You may be going through a tough situation in your life, and focus so much on the negative that you miss out on all the good things happening in your life.
For example: if you're feeling down about yourself because of a recent breakup or failure at work, it's easy to allow these emotions sink into all aspects of your life—even when they should have no bearing on other areas (like how well you care for others).
This type of thinking can ultimately lead to depression and anxiety. It's important to remind yourself that mental health is not just about how we feel about ourselves; rather it includes our ability to manage our own thoughts and feelings effectively.
4) Disqualifying the Positive
Disqualifying the positive is a cognitive distortion that involves rejecting or ignoring positive experiences, accomplishments, and compliments. It's the process of refusing to acknowledge, learn from, and/or build on positive events that have happened in your life.
The reason it's so common is because it's easy to dismiss something as being "just luck" or "not really valid". When you do this, you’re missing out on an opportunity for growth because you refuse to learn from your mistakes and bad days (and there will be plenty). You also won't be able to use any of those experiences in order to motivate yourself into trying harder or bettering yourself for future endeavors.
5) Jumping to Conclusions
This is the cognitive distortion where you jump to conclusions about someone or something. You make an assumption based on limited knowledge and then believe it as fact.
For example, say you're feeling anxious about a test at school and your mind begins racing: "I did poorly on the last test because my teacher doesn't like me." Or if someone hasn't responded to your text message or email: "They must be ignoring me."
Jumping to conclusions can be harmful because it causes unnecessary stress and anxiety. It's easy for these thoughts to build up over time, resulting in feelings of insecurity, anger, resentment and guilt. The best way I've found to combat this kind of thinking is by becoming aware of it when it happens—and then consciously replacing those thoughts with more accurate ones (i.e., that my teacher probably has a lot going on right now; maybe they didn't see my text).
6) Magnification or Minimization
Magnification or minimization are both types of distortions that can lead to depression. They are also linked with other cognitive distortions, like all-or-nothing thinking and overgeneralization.
Magnification is when you exaggerate the importance of something, such as a small problem or trivial event, while minimizing your own importance in response to it. An example would be thinking: “I failed at that one thing? I’m such a loser!”
Minimization is the opposite: you minimize how bad something really is (e.g., “It wasn’t really that bad!”) or minimize your own role in any situation (e.g., “It wasn't my fault; other people did it too!”).
7) Emotional reasoning
Emotional reasoning is a cognitive distortion that you may be familiar with. It’s when you assume that your emotions are facts.
Although it may seem harmless and intuitive to do, emotional reasoning can often lead to faulty conclusions and poor decision making.
For example, if someone makes a mistake at work or forgets to do something important, they might feel angry or upset with themselves; because of this reaction (which we call an emotion), they conclude that their actions were wrong or bad – even though there could have been many reasons for them not doing as well as they would have liked. This can lead to further problems such as holding grudges against others for things out of their control (such as forgetting an appointment) even if these actions weren’t intentional at all!
8) "Should" Statements
- *Should statements:**
"I should never make mistakes." "I should always do things right." "I should be able to do everything perfectly." If you're making these statements, you've slipped into the all-or-nothing thinking trap. It's important to understand that being human means making mistakes and sometimes falling short of your own expectations. When you say things like this, it's easy to fall into a mindset that puts pressure on yourself and makes you feel like a failure when mistakes inevitably happen. This can lead to feelings of shame, embarrassment, or guilt—and those are not healthy emotions!
If this sounds familiar, try replacing your should statements with more balanced ones: "It would be better if I didn't make so many mistakes," or "It would be nice if I did everything perfectly every time."
9) Labeling and Mislabeling
Labeling and mislabeling are both cognitive distortions, meaning they can lead to inaccurate thinking. Labeling is when you attach a negative label to yourself or others based on an event in the past. Mislabeling refers to the process of attaching a label to an event that doesn't fit.
To recognize labeling and mislabeling, pay attention to when you feel like your thoughts are being influenced by one or both of these distortions. If you feel yourself being angry about something someone did in another situation, but then try telling yourself how it's not fair for your current mood because everyone else has done worse things, that's probably an example of mislabeling. It's also possible that if you're feeling sad about something happening in your life right now but try telling yourself it's not bad enough to be sad over because there are much worse things happening around the world all the time (or whatever), then this could be an example of labeling.
The best way to combat this pattern is by replacing negative thought patterns with more accurate statements based on reality—for example: "It would have been nice if he had helped me clean up instead of leaving me alone with everything." You can also identify what specific behaviors led up to your feelings and see if any patterns emerge so that next time something similar happens again you'll know better how best respond without getting caught up in distorted thoughts first!
10) Personalization and Blame
Personalization and blame are related distortions. One seems to lead to the other. When you personalize, you believe that everything that happens is your fault and that it was something YOU did wrong. Personalization is a form of self-blame, which can lead to feelings of shame and guilt if left unchecked. On the other hand, blaming others for things that happen in life leads to a similar response; it makes sense because we want to feel as though we have control over our lives—but when we blame others instead of taking ownership over our own actions or thoughts, they become more extreme than they would be otherwise (i.e., “I’m so stupid!”). Blaming yourself or others too often ultimately leads to resentment and anger—which can be harmful for relationships with friends and family members who don't deserve these negative feelings directed at them!
It's important not only in relationships but also with yourself: if there is something which bothers YOU about someone else (e.g., “They're always late”), try refocusing on what YOU could change instead (e.g., "What time am I supposed arrive?"). Similarly if something doesn't go as planned because another person made a mistake ("The birthday cake was ruined because my sister forgot about it"), ask yourself what part YOU played in not reminding her about this important event ("I should have reminded her earlier").
It is important to know how to recognize and combat cognitive distortions in order to maintain a healthier mindset.
It is important to know how to recognize and combat cognitive distortions in order for you to maintain a healthier mindset. Cognitive distortions are thoughts that are distorted in a way that causes you to feel bad about yourself. It is not the same as depression or anxiety, but it can accompany either of them. If you're able to recognize these patterns of thinking, then you can begin taking steps toward correcting them so that they no longer have power over your emotions or behavior!
We hope this post on the top 10 cognitive distortions has given you a better understanding of what they are, why they happen and how to combat them. Cognitive distortions can be hard to recognize because they feel like the truth or reality. In order to see if you are dealing with a cognitive distortion ask yourself "Is there any other way of looking at this?" and then consider the potential alternative viewpoints or ways of thinking about it. Allowing other points of view into our thought process helps us become more objective in our thinking and decision making abilities. Recognizing we do not always have all the facts or information is also an important part of becoming a more objective thinker. If you are interested in learning more about cognitive distortions, please check out this article as well!