10 Forms of Cognitive Distortions (Faulty Thinking)

Based on the work of Aaron Beck, psychiatrist David Burns discusses 10 forms of cognitive distortions in his book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, they are as follows –

  1. All-or-nothing thinking – you see things in black-and-white categories – there is no grey. For example – if an action isn’t completed then it is entirely wrong or useless.
  2. Overgeneralisaton – you see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. For example – if it happened once, it will always happen again.
  3. Mental filter – one (negative) part of the picture is examined to the exclusion of the larger (positive) part, like the drop of ink that discolours the entire beaker of water.
  4. Disqualifying the positive – dismissing or ignoring any positive comment/achievement/compliment.
  5. Jumping to conclusions – you think negatively about something without supporting evidence. There are 2 errors:
    • Mind reading – you think without any evidence that someone is thinking negatively about you;
    • The Fortune Teller error – you truly believe that you know what will happen in the future, without evidence.
  1. Magnification (catastrophising) or minimisation – this is making small things much larger that they deserve, and making other things much smaller than they are in reality.
  2. Emotional reasoning – thinking that emotional states legitimately reflect reality. For example – “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  3. ‘Should’ statements – thinking in terms of should, must, ought imposes a view about the way the world in which may not tie with reality, and which induces emotional unhappiness, resentment and guilt.
  4. Labeling and mislabeling – this involves describing actions or events in an over the top, emotionally coloured way. Also name-calling.
  5. Personalisation – this involves attributing blame to self for an event where the responsibility is not fully yours, only partly yours or not yours at all.

The above 10 forms or patterns of cognitive distortions (faulty thinking) are just that – patterns or habits. Subsequently, they can be broken down over time through awareness and ongoing practice. If you would like to read more about these, please click on the book below.

 

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Reference

Burns, D. (1980). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. New York: New American Library.

Remember, if you recognise these patterns, it is important to get support and work with a trained health care professional. You can access some help-seeking websites for mental health here.

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