Most Common Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive Therapy is directed at 10 common Cognitive Distortions, or faulty thought patterns, that send us into depression. See if you recognize yourself in any of these:
All-or-Nothing Thinking: Susan applied to a PhD program in Clinical Psychology. She was invited for an interview and did a pretty good job at it. It turned out they offered the slot to another good student. Susan wanted to get into that program very much and now feels that she will never have the same opportunity again. She feels like a total failure.

Overgeneralization: Linda is very lonely and often spends most of her time at home. People sometimes suggest that she should get out and meet people. Linda feels that that is it useless to try to meet people. She believes that no one really could like her.

Mental Filter: Dwelling on the negative aspects of a situation and neglecting the positive ones. Kate's husband clearly enjoys the birthday party she threw in his honor, but comments that the food was a bit salty. Kate filters out all his positive comments and criticizes herself for being a lousy cook.

Disqualifying the Positive:Arianna just had her portrait made. Her friends tell her she looks very beautiful. Arianna brushes aside the compliment by saying that the photographer must have touched up the picture. She never looks that good in real life.

Jumping to Conclusions: Charles is waiting for his date at a restaurant. She's now 20 minutes late. Charles laments to himself that he must have done something wrong and now she has stood him up. Meanwhile across town, his date is stuck in traffic.

Magnification and Minimization:You exaggerate the importance of problems, shortcomings, and minor annoyances. Clark got a C on an exam and now believes he will never be accepted into the graduate school of his choice. He thinks his academic career is ruined.

Emotional Reasoning: Jamile looks around her untidy house and feels overwhelmed by the prospect of cleaning. "This is hopeless", she says to herself. "Why should I even try?"

Should Statements: David is sitting in his dentist's waiting room. His dentist is running late. David sits stewing thinking, "With how much I'm paying him he should be on time. He ought to have more consideration." He ends up feeling bitter and resentful.

Labeling and Mislabeling:Donna just cheated on her diet. "What a fat pig I am!", she thinks.

Personalization:  Paula's son is doing poorly in school. She feels that she must be a bad mother. She feels that it's all her fault that he isn't studying.

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