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Some common cognitive distortions

In this step we will look at twelve common cognitive distortions and how they may affect people in different ways.

All-or-Nothing Thinking (Black-and-White Thinking) is seen in statements that use absolute terms such as “always, never, completely, totally, or perfectly.” Leaves no room for middle ground or exceptions. Often used to suggest you are a failure if your performance falls short of standards.

Blaming ourselves, someone else or a situation for set-back, mistake or problem instead of using it as an opportunity to learn.

Catastrophizing is a building of up consequences to an event so that they seem insufferable or particularly horrible.

Minimizing (and maximizing) “the binocular trick” happens when we enlarge our shortcomings or someone else’s accomplishments while shrinking our accomplishments or someone else’s shortcomings.

Fortune-telling/Jumping to conclusions occurs as unfounded, usually dire predictions that are made as if they are already fact.

Labelling is an extreme form of overgeneralization whereby a negative and usually emotionally charge label is attached to a person on the basis of a relatively isolated or insignificant behaviour.

Mental filter focuses on an aspect, usually negative, of a situation while ignoring the positive. Can also be rejecting the positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count”.

Mind reading is a prediction about other people’s thoughts or behaviours that is made without checking it out.

Overgeneralization is the use of a single negative event as evidence for a never-ending pattern of negative events.

Should statements are statements that suggest a desire to change some reality when the only real choice is between accepting and not accepting it. Often related to shame/guilt statements.

Selective interpretation happens when we choose to hear/believe only those statements which meet/fit our own expectations/experience. Situations or facts outside our reality are not recognized. We have a tendency to selectively take information and use it to fit our own reality.

Personalization happens when we interpret an event or a situation as having special meaning (usually negative) for only ourselves.

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This article is from the free online course:

Anxiety in Children and Young People during COVID-19

UEA (University of East Anglia)