Common Cognitive Distortions

Posted by: Center for Growth Therapists

Center for Growth / Cognitive Therapy in Philadelphia: Common Cognitive Distortions.

This is an overview of Common Cognitive Distortions. Cognitive Distortions tend to occur when we are stuck in our negative thinking. These types of thoughts are especially common for individuals struggling with anxiety or depression. Take a look over the list to see if you can connect with any of the definitions or examples. It is possible to have more than one cognitive distortion at a time.

To give you a thorough idea of how these types of cognitive distortions can impact how we view things, the same example will be referred to throughout the list. The following example: A 35 year old male living in Center City Philly who struggles with insecurities around lack of direction regarding his career and issues with his body image.

Cogntivite Therapy Distortion "All-or-Nothing Thinking" Also known as thinking in black or white. We (or things) are either all good, or all bad, there is no gray area when in the All-or-Nothing mindset.

For example: “I should be so much further in my Philly career and success than I am at 35.” In this example, this individual is failing to recognize the other successes he has actually made, and is only measuring his achievements through one area of his life right now (his career path).

Cogntive Therapy Distortion "Assumption Making" Also known as jumping to conclusions, or fortune telling. Without others saying so, or without any concrete evidence we make predictions about how events will turn out or how others will respond to us.

For example: “I won’ t be take seriously if I don’t’ figure out a successful career in Philly.” Or, “Philly women will not want to date me unless I become more physically fit.” In both of these examples, this individual is predicting how others will react to him without any concrete evidence.

Cogntive Therapy Distortion "Catastrophizing" We expect the absolute worst to happen, without taking other realistic possibilities into consideration.

For example: Someone may have insecurities about their financial future or career, and thinks, “I don’t have a full-time job in Philly, I’ll never be able to have a family just on a part-time job.” Without considering other possibilities that could have happen between now and when a relationship may happen, such as improving in his career in Philly, this individual in this example thinks not only will change never happen, but the worst scenario will occur.

Cogntive Therapy Distortion "Comparing" Unfairly comparing our achievements and qualities to others’ achievements and qualities without considering the reasons we each have our own strengths and weaknesses.

For example: “There are plenty of men my age who are CEOs, or have multiple houses, and can more than provide for his family, I can’t even afford to buy my own home in Philly.” Here, this person is measuring himself to others without considering or recognizing why these differences exist. There are many valid reasons why the other men he is comparing himself to have reached such success. There are also many valid reasons why this individual has not be able to reach such success yet, (from emotional obstacles over the year, learning disabilities, lack of resources compared to others, etc.) We all have our own strengths and weaknesses in life, that’s what makes us unique from one another, and that’s why it’s an unfair comparison to measure ourselves based on where others are in their lives.

Cogntive Therapy Distortion "Personalization" Believing that what others do or say is a direct reflection on us, and how we think we are perceived, basically making everything about us and taking things personally, no matter what they are.

For example, “My co-worker in Philly never says hello to me at work, I think it’s because she has a better job than me, and she thinks she’s better than me.” He is concluding that his co-worker’s behavior is about him, not considering that the reasons or issues lie only with his co-worker.
Overgeneralization- We make a general conclusion based on one example or situation. If we have a negative experience or negative result in one situation, that negative experience will continue to happen again and again.

For example, “Women never go out on a second date with me after we first meet; it happened on my last first date.”

Cogntive Therapy Distortion "Discounting the Positive" This is when we tend to focus only on what’s negative about yourself or what’s negative in our life, without being able to consider some of the positive things that are in still there.

For example, “I think I am too scrawny, and my nose is too crooked; women will never view me as datable at this rate.” Here, he is unable to recognize all of the other positive attributes he has because all of his focus and energy is on what he doesn’t have.

Cogntive Therapy Distortion "Emotional Reasoning" We believe what we feel must be true, without considering that emotions can sometimes be unhealthy.

For example, “I feel like a loser for not having a full-time job, therefore I am a loser for not having a full-time job.”

After reviewing over this list, were you able to connect with any of these types of negative thinking? Can you identify which ones you do more often than others? Identifying your common cognitive distortions can help you continue awareness of when you are viewing through your negative lens, and can help you challenge these thoughts. Awareness of your cognitive distortions and how they work is the primary step to changing your thinking. Refer to the tip on thought records for a more concrete exercise involving your negative thoughts and cognitive distortions.

Still struggling?  Help is available.  Call 267-324-9564 and speak with a counselor at the Center for Growth / Cognitive Therapy in Philly.