The Cognitive Distortion Chronicle

Our minds are always trying to interpret and make sense of the world around us. Often we see the world accurately – as it really is – but sometimes, our minds take a series of alternate steps resulting in our thinking becoming biased.

These biases or ‘cognitive distortions’ can have overwhelming effects on how we feel. Aaron Beck initially identified distorted thinking in people suffering from depression in the 1960s. Beck’s finding formed a central part of his Cognitive Theory of Depression and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Distorted thinking is associated with all types of mental health problems, ranging from depression and anxiety to OCD and eating disorders. Cognitive therapy proposes that thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are inter-related.

Altering unhelpful thinking can lead to changes in emotions and behaviours. The CBT therapy approach is first used to identify the distorted thinking patterns. The next step is to utilize some CBT restructuring techniques to alter the distorted thinking patterns.

Some of the CBT restructuring techniques used are examining the evidence for/against a thought or by taking a more compassionate position is often a helpful approach.

There are a number of cognitive distortions. In this blog post, we will share the 10 most common distortions:

  • All-or-Nothing – this distortion describes thinking or acting in extremes. Often defined as the tendency to evaluate one’s personal qualities in either a ‘black-or-white’ category.
  • Overgeneralization – this distortion describes identifying perceived patterns based on very little data.
  • Mental Filter or Selective Abstraction – this distortion describes only focusing attention on a select type of evidence. Selective Abstraction is often described as the process of focusing on a detail which is taken out of context whilst ignoring other more salient features of the situation. The experience is then conceptualized based on this taken out of context detail.
  • Disqualifying the Positive – this distortion describes the process of dismissing positive information. As an example, the dismissal of positive life events as merely a coincidence or saying that the events should be ignored.
  • Jumping to Conclusions – this distortion is described as jumping to a negative conclusion that is not justified by fact. On one end of the spectrum, we imagine and predict that bad things will happen to us, often known as the ‘fortune telling’ variant. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the ‘mind reading’ variant where we assume that other people think negatively about us.
  • Magnification and Minimization – this distortion describes how we place the spotlight on our imperfections and errors while often a more diminished focus on our strengths and achievements.
  • Emotional Reasoning – this distortion describes the process of taking one’s emotions as evidence of truth. Often when feeling hopeless and concluding that the problem can never be solved.
  • “Should” Statements – when using “should” statements to reflect the often unreasonable standards that we place on ourselves. For example, “I should do this”, “I must do that” and frequently resulting in feelings of frustration, shame, or guilt.
  • Labelling and Mislabeling – this distortion describes the process of summing up ourselves (or others) by labelling ourselves with self-deprecating tags such as “I am hopeless” or “I am stupid”.
  • Personalization and Blame – this distortion describes occasions when you conclude you are automatically the party at fault even when you are not responsible.

If you are in need of a professional therapist, we welcome you to consult with Smile Psychology. Jaspreet is a highly experienced professional that is well-versed in various methods. CBT is one of the choices that she can offer. If you are interested, you may contact her by phone at 780-237-1235, or use this contact form for your convenience.

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