You are currently viewing 4 Common Cognitive Distortions And How They Can Affect Your Life

4 Common Cognitive Distortions And How They Can Affect Your Life

4 Common Cognitive Distortions And How To Challenge Them

Disclaimer: The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp

It’s easy to be driving down the highway and read a sign the wrong way. Things can easily happen that may cause us to temporarily misread events in our environment. But sometimes the false information we’re receiving is coming from our negative thought patterns. When a person repeatedly creates a false or distorted thought pattern, it’s called a cognitive distortion.

In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a person learns to identify these false cognitive distortions and understand the ways they’re causing negative consequences in their life. The process involves challenging a cognitive distortion once it’s found. Then working through a process to successfully reframe the distorted thoughts into more positive thought patterns. For those considering cognitive behavioral therapy, know that BetterHelp offers CBT therapy and resources that can be conveniently accessed online.

Is CBT Therapy Effective?

CBT is considered one of the most effective therapies

 for treating anxiety and depression. In multiple studies, CBT has been shown to be one of the most effective or among the most effective treatments for anxiety, depression, and other mental conditions. In a recent study at Harvard Medical School, cognitive behavior therapy was found to be the most effective form of psychotherapy for people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some the most common cognitive distortions examined during CBT therapy. Plus, look at how challenging them can help bring about a more positive frame of mind.

How Do Common Cognitive Distortions Affect Our Mental Wellbeing?

Is CBT Therapy Effective

Is the glass half full or half empty? You probably already know the answer: It’s all in how you look at it. The glass of water exists in reality in the same way, yet people’s perceptions of the glass may vary.

In some ways, cognitive distortions are like filters or mental biases that affect the way we see things in the world. Even though two people can look at the same glass of water, they can both have completely different perceptions of the same thing.

One of the most damaging things about cognitive distortions is that they can feel very real. Often people aren’t even aware of the many potential ways they could be skewing reality in a needlessly negative way. Some people even create a pattern of thinking and use the same cognitive distortions over a long period of time. But that doesn’t mean a person is helpless in ending the power a cognitive distortion has over their life and happiness.

Challenging Cognitive Distortions

In cognitive behavioral therapy, a person is taught to identify and then challenge the distortions that may be causing them to view the world more negatively. The first step is identifying the kinds of harmful cognitive distortions that are already coloring your perspective of the world. By paying attention to the distortion, we can begin the process of challenging them.

In CBT, a person follows a process of refuting or challenging the cognitive distortions they’ve identified. Reversing a long-held thought pattern is not a one-time event. Challenging cognitive distortions can be a long-term process that repeatedly involves reframing the negative thinking underlying the cognitive distortions. But the results can be life-changing.

Let’s take a look now at some of the most common cognitive distortions that can creep into our mind.

Common Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive Distortion #1 – Mind Reading

Mind reading is so common that it’s pretty easy to relate. With the mind reading cognitive distortion, a person believes that they know what someone else is thinking. The issue here can be that you only know what is going through your own mind.

Even though you believe you have some sort of magical insight into what’s in someone else’s mind, you may actually just be substituting your own negative thoughts. For example, you may believe someone doesn’t like you. When in reality, it’s your own fears of not being liked that’s leading you to believe that’s what is on someone else’s mind.

When challenging mind reading, it’s important to look for evidence of what you believe to be true. One good way is to simply ask someone about what they’re thinking.

Cognitive Distortion #2 – Labeling

When someone is labeling, they are using negative terms to label themselves. For example, let’s say someone at fails at a test one time. It’s understandable to be disappointed after failing at something, but that one act doesn’t make you a permanent failure. Unfortunately, the person engaging in the cognitive distortion of labeling can continue to refer to themself as a failure and beat themselves up.

Regular negative self-talk can impair your own mental wellbeing and put up barriers to engaging in healthy relationships. When you place a negative label on yourself, you tend to create a negative identity that may result in unfavorable consequences.

One of the ways a therapist may guide you in challenging labels is to keep a journal of the negative names you call yourself. Once identified, you can work on lessening the use of negative labels and reframing them into positive labels.

Cognitive Distortion #3 – Overgeneralization

Overgeneralization is cognitive distortion that leads us to draw overgeneralized conclusions about what we think will happen. For example, if you had a poor dining experience at a restaurant then you might start generalizing that all restaurants are bad. Of course, we know logically this isn’t true.

But that’s not how brains work, especially when we’re trying to make sense of negative emotions from something like a bad breakup. The key to overcoming this cognitive distortion is to identify, and start to see the ways the overgeneralizations are false and cannot be trusted.

Cognitive Distortion #4 – Discounting The Positive

Imagine complimenting someone on their lovely hairstyle, yet they don’t respond by saying thank you. They just start talking about how much they dislike their outfit. In the cognitive distortion known as discounting the positive, a person actively discounts the positive forces in their life and heads straight for the negative instead.

This form of cognitive distortion can far-ranging negative effects. People feel better when they like they have some form of control of their lives. Yet by discounting positive events, a person can be left feeling they lack control over their lives. They may even feel like a victim of a steady stream of disasters and negative events – all while ignoring the positive bright spots in their life.

We all have blind spots, but it’s important to acknowledge the good and positive things we have. Keeping a gratitude journal offers a simple yet powerful way to become more aware of the good around you, which can lead you to feeling happier and more satisfied.

In Conclusion

There are many cognitive distortions that can lead to negative consequences in our lives. Fortunately, there are also proven ways to successfully challenge them. Just by identifying some of the negative thought patterns already in your life, you can be on the road to better mental wellbeing.

Leave a Reply