Cognitive Distortions

Discussion in 'General Topics' started by Surati, Mar 3, 2021.

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  1. Surati

    Surati Active Member

    Cognitive distortions are biased perspectives we take on ourselves and the world around us. They are irrational thoughts and beliefs that we unknowingly reinforce over time.

    It's good to be aware or these negative thinking patterns to recognize them in yourself and avoid them.

    Here is a useful list of cognitive distortions:


    (also known as dichotomous thinking, binary thinking, splitting, black and white thinking, polarised thinking).

    This distortion manifests as an inability or unwillingness to see shades of gray. In other words, you see things in terms of extremes – something is either fantastic or awful.

    Example: Your wife is the most wonderful person in the world – until she is the absolute worst.

    Overgeneralising can lead to overly negative thoughts and hasty generalisations about yourself and your environment based on only one or two experiences.

    Example: Your spouse made a mistake and you conclude that they will keep making the same mistakes in the future, they will never change and that you will be unhappy in your marriage.

    This happens when you dwell only on the negative details of a situation and exclude all the positive aspects.

    Example: Dwelling on negative comments made by your spouse during a fight and viewing the relationship as hopelessly lost, while ignoring the times of positive comments and experiences.

    Insisting that positive experiences ‘don’t count’ for some reason or other. Negative belief is maintained despite strong evidence of the contrary.

    Example: “They are just complimenting me to be nice. They don't really think that”


    The inaccurate belief that we know what another person is thinking. Of course, it is possible to have an idea of what other people are thinking, but this distortion refers to the negative interpretations that we jump to.

    Example: Your mother has an unpleasant expression when you come home so you jump to the conclusion that she is upset with you.

    The tendency to make conclusions and predictions based on little to no evidence and holding them as absolute truth.

    Example: You predict that your marriage will turn out badly after one negative experience. You tell yourself things like, “This isn’t going to work.”

    5. MAGNIFICATION (Catastrophising) and MINIMISATION
    Exaggerating or minimising the meaning, importance, or likelihood of things.

    Example: We fought a lot this week. This marriage will be a lifetime of misery. I better get out now.

    Emotional reasoning refers to the acceptance of one’s emotions as fact. It can be described as “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

    Example: In your marriage, you struggle with feelings of mistrust. You can’t resist accusing your spouse that they will betray you and leave one day, even though they've shown nothing but devotion to you and you have no plausible evidence that you've been betrayed.

    Should statements are statements that you make to yourself about what you “should” do, what you “ought” to do, or what you “must” do. They can also be applied to others, imposing a set of expectations that will likely not be met. When we hang on too tightly to our “should” statements about ourselves, the result is often guilt that we cannot live up to them. When we cling to our “should” statements about others, we are generally disappointed by their failure to meet our expectations, leading to anger and resentment.

    Example: He/she should just get how I’m feeling!!!!

    8. BLAMING
    A disproportionate level of blame is placed on other people rather than oneself. In this way the person avoids taking responsibility.

    Example: Placing blame for marital problems entirely on one’s spouse.

    Attributing a person’s actions to their character instead of to an attribute. Rather than assuming the behaviour to be accidental or otherwise extrinsic, one assigns a label to someone or something that is based on the inferred character of that person or thing.

    Example: “You are a wild, unhinged person!”

    Taking everything personally or assigning blame to yourself without any logical reason to believe you are to blame. This distortion covers a wide range of situations, from assuming you are the reason your wife is unhappy, to the more severe examples of believing that you are the cause for every instance of moodiness or irritation in your wife.

    A person experiencing self-serving bias may attribute all positive events to his or her personal character while seeing any negative events as outside of his or her control.
    This pattern of thinking may cause a person to refuse to admit mistakes or flaws and to live in a distorted reality where he or she can do no wrong.

    Cognitive Distortions: When your brain lies to you (2020). Ackerman. Retrieved from

    Further reading:
    • Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapies and emotional disorders. New York, NY: New American Library.
    • Burns, D. D. (1980). Feeling good: The new mood therapy. New York, NY: New American Library.
    • Burns, D. D. (1989). The feeling good handbook. New York, NY: Morrow.
    • GoodTherapy. (2015). Aaron Beck. GoodTherapy LLC.
    • Lukianoff, Greg; Haidt, Jonathan (2018). The Coddling of the American Mind. New York, NY: Penguin Press.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2021
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