Cognitive distortions are irrational thoughts and unhelpful thinking styles that can influence your emotions and trigger anxiety. Everyone experiences cognitive distortions to some degree, but in their more extreme forms they can be harmful.
Below is a list of the most common cognitive distortions. Use the list to identify which ones you may be prone to using, then use the table to help you reframe those distortions by using table evidence to prove or disprove them.
- Magnification and Minimization: Exaggerating or minimizing the importance of events. One might believe their own achievements are unimportant, or that their mistakes are excessively important.
- Catastrophizing: Seeing only the worst possible outcomes of a situation.
- Overgeneralization: Making broad interpretations from a single or few events. “I felt awkward during my job interview. I am always so awkward.”
- Magical Thinking: The belief that acts will influence unrelated situations. “I am a good person—bad things shouldn’t happen to me.”
- Personalization: The belief that one is responsible for events outside of their own control. “My mom is always upset. She would be fine if I did more to help her.”
- Jumping to Conclusions: Interpreting the meaning of a situation with little or no evidence.
- Mind Reading: Interpreting the thoughts and beliefs of others without adequate evidence. “She would not go on a date with me. She probably thinks I’m ugly.”
- Fortune Telling: The expectation that a situation will turn out badly without adequate evidence.
- Emotional Reasoning: The assumption that emotions reflect the way things really are. “I feel like a bad friend, therefore I must be a bad friend.”
- Disqualifying the Positive: Recognizing only the negative aspects of a situation while ignoring the positive. One might receive many compliments on an evaluation but focus on the single piece of negative feedback.
When you can feel and hear the negative self-talk and inner dialogue taking hold, use the table below to reframe the mind, balancing out the emotional mindset with the rational mindset.
What is the thought
What is the cognitive distortion
What is the rationale response
(what evidence is there to support the thought)