Identifying your negative thoughts

Hi guys! Today I am exploring cognitive distortions, by explaining what they are and how they can affect us.

Cognitive distortions is basically a negative thinking pattern, it is a way in which our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to trigger negative thinking or emotions. They really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves.


Everyone experiences negative thinking (cognitive distortions) to some degree, but when they start affecting our emotions and influencing our thoughts, then they can become maladaptive and harmful. The first step in overcoming these thoughts, is acknowledging your own cognitive distortions. There are many different types that we may be unaware of. Below I have listed some common thinking errors, watch out for these thinking errors that can lead to anxiety or depression:

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: Things are seen in black and white categories. Thinking in absolutes such as “always”, “never”, or “every”. “I never do a good enough job on anything.” This is seeing a single negative event as a never ending pattern
  • Catastrophizing: Seeing only the worst possible outcomes of a situation


  • Jumping to Conclusions: Interpreting the meaning of a situation with little or no evidence. Such as:
  • Fortune telling: You think that you can predict the future, and convince yourself that bad things will happen without adequate evidence.
  • Mind Reading: Interpreting the thought and beliefs of others without adequate evidence. “She would not go on a date with me. She probably thinks I’m ugly.”


  • Magnification and Minimisation: This can be minimising the importance of events. One might believe their own achievements are unimportant, or that their mistakes are excessively important.
  • “Should” Statements: The belief that things should be a certain way. “I should not be upset over this.” This can lead to judgemental and unforgiving expectations that can create a lot of anxiety.
  • Playing the comparison game: Comparing yourself to others and needing to keep up with others to feel good about yourself
  • Disqualifying the Positive: Recognising only the negative aspects of a situation while ignoring the positive. One might receive many compliments on an evaluation, but focus on the single piece of negative feedback.
  • Overgeneralization: Making broad interpretations from a single or few events. “I felt awkward during my job interview. I am always so awkward.” Or, if you make a mistake, you might think you have “failed” and are a “failure”.
  • Labelling: You label yourself or others by terms such as “lazy”, “stupid”, “fat”, “loser”, stating them like they are facts. Labelling can affect your self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Emotional Reasoning: The assumption that emotions reflect the way things really are. “I feel like a bad friend, therefore I must be a bad friend.”


Today’s task 

The first step to overcoming negative thinking is to acknowledge it and understand the type of thinking you are using. To start acknowledging your own cognitive distortions, write down your negative thoughts while matching them up with some of the cognitive distortions they demonstrate. Below I have included an example.

Negative thought Type of Cognitive Distortions
Example: “I am such a bad driver, I am never going to be able to do it” Labelling, Fortune Telling and All or Nothing Thinking.

I hope you gained some information from reading this post today. The next task will be about challenge these negative thoughts, which I will be posting about soon!

                                                                             Niamh  xx                                                                                       Psychotherapis

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