Cognitive Distortions

What are cognitive distortions?

They are patterns of thinking that are negative and "irrational". Unhelpful thinking patterns. Again, reminder that these thought patterns probably evolved as a response to trauma, so please be kind to yourself.

Types of Cognitive Distortions

All-or-Nothing Thinking: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

Over Generalization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

Mental Filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolours the entire beaker of water.

Disqualifying the Positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

Jumping to Conclusion: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support you conclusions.

Mind Reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don't bother to check this out.

The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an established fact.

Magnification (catastrophizing) or Minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things, or you inappropriately shrink things until the appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow's imperfections).

Emotional Reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true".

Should Statements: You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn't, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything.

Labelling and Mislabelling: This is an extreme form of over generalization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: "Iā€™m a loser". When someone else's behaviour rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to them.

Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.


Everyone has cognitive distortions. Your cognitive distortions aren't your fault. It isn't your fault that you were dealt with situations where the brain had to adopt such behaviours, such styles of thinking. Be easy on yourself, you deserve that much


see also: cognitive bias