Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


Definitions of Common Cognitive Distortions or “Thinking Errors”

All or Nothing Thinking    

You see things in black and white categories.  If your performance fails short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. 

Overgeneralization

You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern. 

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 glass that is discolored by a single drop of ink.  

Disqualifying the Positive

You reject the positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count.”  This enables you to maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday reality. 

Jumping to Conclusions 

You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.

Mind Reading

You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.

Fortune Teller Error

You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact. 

Magnification (Catastrophizing & Minimization)

You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or others 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 “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything.  “Musts” and “oughts” are also should statements.  The emotional consequence is guilt.  When you direct should statements towards others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment. 

Implied Should Statements

You ask someone for a behavior change or action without actually saying so.  You imply that s/he “should” be doing something else. 

Labeling & Mislabeling

This is an extreme form of overgeneralization.  Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself, “ I’m a failure”’ or to someone else. “S/he’s a jerk.”  

Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.  “S/he is a stupid S.O.B.” 

Personalization 

You feel that someone is directing their actions or words at you.  “S/he did that to irritate me,” or you feel you are responsible for something bad happening.  A co-worker gets fired, “it’s my fault because I didn’t show him/her the ropes.” 

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