Reality Check! 8 Examples of Cognitive Distortions & Faulty Thinking

Updated on February 5, 2020
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According to one study, about 59 million people had received mental health care in the past two years from when the study was done. 

You may not even realize it, but there are bad ways of thinking that we can end up getting stuck in. It can be hard to break these habits, but therapy and recognizing the problem can help. 

Find yourself overgeneralizing, overthinking, or jumping to conclusions without any evidence? They’re all examples of faulty thinking. Learn more about them here.

1. All-Or-Nothing

One thing that people do is all-or-nothing thinking. 

This is when people see situations or other people in categories of all-or-nothing. For example, if you have this problem, you may find yourself saying that something is either “the best” or “the worst” without acknowledging any middle ground. 

However, life rarely occurs in terms of all-or-nothing.

When you notice yourself doing it, you can question this pattern by thinking of at least one or two scenarios in between the two extremes. 

If that doesn’t help, you can always get more help through therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been used for years, and it’s actually been very successful.

Learning about the history of CBT may help you decide to reach out for help. 

2. Fortune Telling

Fortune telling happens when someone always jumps to conclusions. That conclusion can either be negative or positive, but it’s normally negative. And it normally occurs when someone doesn’t have any evidence to support that conclusion.

This is a way of thinking that is created by how we feel other people feel towards us. Sometimes we mind read other people’s emotions and then just decide that something bad will come from it.

For example, you might be at a party and feeling awkward or out of place. A group who you aren’t talking to might laugh, and you think they’re laughing at you.

However, you have no evidence to prove that they are. 

3. Disqualifying the Positive

Many people also disqualify the positive to solely focus on the negative. This can give the illusion that nothing good ever happens to them. 

People who think this way often reject the positives in their life rather than enjoying them.

One example of this is if a person gets a raise or positive praise at work. They might not think that they are good enough or want to receive praise or raise.

They may even think that their employer is just keeping the negative things from them. By doing this, they aren’t able to enjoy the good things when they come along. 

4. Overgeneralization

Overgeneralization is when people draw from specific events or issues and then apply them to situations that aren’t closely related.

These are normally negative thoughts as well.

For example, if you don’t get a job you want, you may think that no one likes you or will ever like you. You may even start thinking about how you’ll never be able to find a romantic partner either.

These two scenarios aren’t linked, but they can become linked in the mind of someone who thinks this way. 

5. Catastrophizing

Some people end up catastrophizing too. They might expect one disaster to hit even if there is no evidence for it. They may be so focused on finding a disaster that they create one.

If there is a small problem, they may blow it out of proportion. 

However, this problem can also come out as a problem with minimizing. This is the opposite of where if someone has a problem happen, they minimize it and try not to acknowledge how big of a problem it really is. 

6. Should Statements

Some people will always make “should statements.” These can also have the words “ought” or “must” in them as well.

These words are dangerous, and if someone uses them often, they can start to leave people feeling angry and frustrated. 

Should statements normally apply to the past, like you should’ve done something? But you can’t change the past; you can only learn from it and move on.

Instead of saying these statements, you should try and catch every time you say it and try to rephrase your thinking. You should replace it with something more positive like “choose to” or “can.” 

7. Blaming

Many people will also start to blame other people instead of taking responsibility for their own thoughts and actions. 

However, this can go the other way too, and you can blame yourself for other people’s reactions. 

For example, you could tell someone to stop making you feel bad about yourself, but chances are that you are making yourself feel a particular way. 

At the end of the day, you only have control over your own emotions. 

8. Emotional Reasoning

Emotional reasoning is also dangerous. This can be summed up by the phrase: “If I feel that way, it must be true.” 

If a person believes in their feelings, they may be in for some hurt later on down the road. If a person starts to believe that they are boring and stupid, they will most likely become that way. 

Emotions are very strong, and they can start to rule out even rational thoughts, but this can be dangerous and detrimental to your mental health. 

Identify More Faulty Thinking Today!

Do you do any of this faulty thinking? If you do, recognizing it is the first problem.

You can reach out to a therapist and start doing CBT to help change these thoughts and patterns.

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