Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are exaggerated and irrational thoughts, identified in cognitive therapy and its variants, which in theory perpetuate some psychological disorders. Eliminating these distortions and negative thoughts is said to improve mood and discourage maladies such as depression and chronic anxiety.

Aaron Beck first proposed the theory behind cognitive distortions and David Burns was responsible for popularizing it with common names and examples for the distortions.
  • Filtering
    • You take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation.
  • Polarized Thinking
    • In polarized thinking, things are either “black-or-white.” You have to be perfect or you’re a failure — there is no middle ground. You place people or situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and situations.
  • Overgeneralization
    • You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, you expect it to happen over and over again. You may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  • Jumping to Conclusions
    • Without individuals saying so, you know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to determine how people are feeling toward you.
  • Catastrophizing
    • You expect disaster to strike, no matter what. This is also referred to as “magnifying or minimizing.” You hear about a problem and use what if questions.
  • Personalization
    • You believe that everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others trying to determine who is smarter, better looking, etc.
  • Control Fallacies
    • You see yourself as helpless a victim of fate. The fallacy of internal control has you assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around you.
  • Fallacy of Fairness
    • You feel resentful because you think you know what is fair, but other people won’t agree with you. 
  • Blaming
    • You hold other people responsible for your pain, or take the other track and blame yourself for every problem. 
  • Shoulds
    • You have a list of ironclad rules about how others and you should behave. People who break the rules make you angry, and you feel guilty when you violate these rules. 
  • Emotional Reasoning
    • You believe that what you feel must be true automatically. You assume that your unhealthy emotions reflect the way things really are — “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  • Fallacy of Change
    • You expect that other people will change to suit you if you just pressure or cajole them enough. You need to change people because your hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.
  • Global Labeling
    • You generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. These are extreme forms of generalizing, and are also referred to as “labeling” and “mislabeling.” Instead of describing an error in context of a specific situation, you will attach an unhealthy label to it.
  • Always Being Right
    • You are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness. 
  • Heaven’s Reward Fallacy
    • You expect your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone is keeping score. You feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.

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