Have you ever had negative thoughts about yourself or your work? You’re not alone. We all have cognitive distortions – or mistakes in thinking – that can lead us to feeling anxious or discouraged.
Cognitive distortions are the hidden ways our minds deceive us, leading us to make faulty decisions and hold negative beliefs. Understanding and overcoming these faulty thought patterns is essential for good mental health and wellbeing. Besides identifying the most common cognitive distortions and how to identify them in your own thinking, we’ll also provide some tips for overcoming them and regaining control over your own mental wellbeing.
What Are Cognitive Distortions?
Everyone takes cognitive shortcuts to be able to navigate our lives. But sometimes, these shortcuts can lead to the phenomenon of “cognitive distortions”. These irrational and negative ways of thinking can give us an inaccurate perception of what is happening in our environment.
At its essence, cognitive distortions are harmful because they are hard-wired into our brains and can become habitual. Everyone is susceptible to them, though those with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression may be more prone to experiencing cognitive distortions. When a person is regularly seeped in these negative ways of thinking, they become more likely to cope with the resulting stress maladaptively.
10 Common Types of Cognitive Distortions
We’re all guilty of negative thinking from time to time. But, did you know that there are 10 particular thought patterns that can cause a lot of this negative thinking — shaping how we think, feel and interact with our world around us?
If you want to recognize and stop the negative thinking associated with cognitive distortions, here’s a list of the ten most common types:
- Filtering – Selectively paying attention to certain things while ignoring others.
- Disqualifying the Positive – Only acknowledging the negatives and disregarding any positives.
- Overgeneralization – Taking a single event and generalizing it to inform your opinion on everything.
- Jumping to Conclusions – Assuming something with very little evidence or jumping to unwarranted conclusions based on fear.
- All-or-Nothing Thinking – Viewing anything as completely good or completely bad; no in between.
- Magnification/Minimization – Exaggerating or minimizing the importance or an event based on one’s emotional state.
- Mental Filter – Ignoring positive situations or experiences while focusing heavily on one particular negative detail.
- Emotional Reasoning – Believing your emotions determine the truth instead of questioning them first.
- Labeling – Giving yourself (or someone else) a label that carries an emotional burden.
- Personalization/ Blame – Blaming yourself for something you were not responsible for, or taking responsibility for something outside your control.
These ten cognitive distortions exist on a spectrum, so recognizing them at even their mildest forms can help you gain control over your thought processes and enjoy more balanced thinking in the long run.
The Impact of Cognitive Distortions on Mental Health
Cognitive distortions can have a huge impact on our mental health, especially over time. If left unchecked, these negative thought processes can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It’s important to recognize when these cognitive distortions show up and make sure that you don’t engage in them habitually or become seeped in them.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way—you can actively work on replacing faulty thinking patterns with more constructive ones. This is where therapy and psychological counseling can come in handy, as they equip you with the tools you need to take back control of your thoughts and ultimately your life.
Combatting Cognitive Distortions: Some Useful Techniques
In order to overcome cognitive distortions, a popular theoretical approach is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is an evidence-based approach that helps individuals recognize, challenge and replace irrational thoughts with more realistic ones.
One way of doing this is through cognitive restructuring. This process involves examining the connection between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Another popular technique for combating cognitive distortion is cognitive reframing. This technique involves looking at facts objectively in order to gain a different perspective on a situation or problem. By challenging our initial interpretations of events, we can begin to develop alternative ways of looking at things that don’t involve negative self-talk or other unhealthy thoughts.
The 5 Steps of Cognitive Restructuring (CR) is a skill that everyone should become familiar with if they’re feeling distressed. The five steps are:
Identifying distorted thinking patterns
Identify the distorted thinking patterns that are causing you distress. This could involve paying attention to the negative self-talk that’s going on in your head or the limiting beliefs that are holding you back.
Examining evidence against the distorted thinking pattern
Look for evidence that contradicts your negative beliefs or seeking out alternative viewpoints that challenge your assumptions.
Uncovering alternative interpretations of the situation
Brainstorm different ways to look at the problem or situation you’re facing. By coming up with alternative interpretations, you can start to open up your mind to new possibilities and see things from a fresh perspective.
Evaluating the pros and cons of each interpretation
Weigh up the evidence for each interpretation and considering the potential consequences of each.
Choosing to view the situation more objectively
Make a conscious decision to adopt the interpretation that’s most helpful and constructive, and to let go of the negative thoughts and beliefs that are holding you back.
All of us experience cognitive distortions from time to time, but only when we recognize them can we effectively address our distorted thinking. By understanding the underlying causes of cognitive distortions, we can become better equipped to resist them. And by learning to identify and challenge our cognitive distortions, we can better manage the symptoms they cause and develop healthier thinking patterns.
At Aventis Wellness (AW), we offer convenient and confidential counseling and workplace coaching services that cover an extensive range of topics from both personal to work related issues. It’s okay to seek help when you need it. If you would like to contact us for counselling, you can do so here:
About Aventis Wellness
Aventis Wellness (AW) is an evidence-based Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and Counselling Provider. At Aventis Wellness, we recognize the importance of mental wellness and strive to offer affordable and accessible counselling and coaching services in full confidentiality. We bring together a community of industry practitioners, mental wellness experts, university partners, counsellors, therapists and learners.
We are here to support you and all companies towards a healthier and more engaged workforce by providing workplace well-being solutions. Many of our practitioners are highly experienced and come from diverse backgrounds. They offer wide-ranging areas of counselling catered to meet the needs of different companies or individuals.