Do you have trouble controlling your negative thoughts? Are you feeling anxious or depressed and wish you could switch off those thoughts? Sometimes, it’s those thoughts rather than a particular situation or incident that can be causing anxiety or depression.
Thinking errors happen when your thoughts and reality don’t match up, often without you even realising. Also called ‘cognitive distortions’ by professionals, they’re faulty patterns of thinking that are self-defeating, meaning it’s possible to get caught in a loop of negative thinking that can end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Here’s an example of someone who thinks he is unpopular, and might have physical symptoms, such as sweating profusely at the idea of being in a social situation. The individual might avoid parties and social gatherings altogether based on the feeling that ‘something must be wrong with me’.
If the initial thinking error is dealt with appropriately, the negative cycle (see diagram below) and any resulting depression or anxiety could be avoided.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you recognise your distorted thoughts and learn to question them. With practice, you can learn to break the cycle of negativity that could be triggered by negative thinking, and replace it with a healthier, more balanced way of thinking.
Here are 7 common thinking errors that can be helped by CBT.
1 – ‘All or nothing’ thinking
If you are routinely thinking of things in terms of ‘never’ or ‘always’, you may be tempted to view anything less than perfect as a failure. Try to find the ‘in between’ and learn to accept that there is a wide range of possible outcomes between complete disaster and total perfection.
2 – Mental Filter
Are you typically dwelling on the negative aspects of any given situation, disregarding the positive side? If so, you may need to shift your mindset to acknowledge the good things that exist and learn not to let your negative thinking dominate.
3 – Fortune Telling
Do you tend to jump to conclusions based on your negative thinking, convinced that a certain situation or opportunity is bound to turn out badly? Rather than letting foregone conclusions limit your thinking, learn that you do have control over the outcome.
4 – Mind Reading
Similarly, you may be making negative assumptions about a person’s intentions or thoughts. While you engage in a thinking error known as ‘mind reading’, you are assuming people focus on your flaws through their responses, even though that may not be the case at all.
5 – Overgeneralising
Another type of negative of thinking error is the habit of creating a broad generalisation out of a single isolated incident. But an unpleasant situation that occurred once doesn’t mean that the same thing will happen every time
6 – Disqualifying the positive
Are you constantly dismissing good things, compliments you receive or positive things people say? With this thinking error, you are discounting the good, while looking for a negative message or ulterior motive.
7 – Personalisation
Are you in danger of seeing yourself as the cause of everything negative that happens, even though you are not responsible? You may be feeling guilt or shame as a result of something that is not your fault.
If you are suffering from thinking errors, you’ll be pleased to hear that recognising cognitive distortions is the first step towards correcting them. Your negative thought patterns can be changed.
At KlearMinds, we have experienced cognitive behavioural therapists that can help you address your individual issues and give you the tools to change your thoughts for the better. Please feel free to contact us.
Beck, J. S. 2010. Cognitive Therapy. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.
Burns, David D., MD. (1989). The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
15 Common Cognitive Distortions
How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Can Help With Depression
How CBT Can Help with Anxiety
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that thoughts, feelings and behaviours are interconnected and that by changing one you can change the others. It’s an effective ‘talking therapy’ technique that’s been known to help people deal with a variety of mental health issues, from anxiety and depression to self-esteem and substance misuse.
Put simply, the goal is to learn skills that you can take home and use to address real-life problems as they arise. The more you become comfortable using these techniques, the more of a habit CBT will become. We wrote a detailed blog about CBT here.
Here are 3 self-help techniques you can practise at home:
1 – Practice mindfulness and meditation
It is well known that practising mindfulness can have a wide range of positive impacts on mental health. Put briefly, mindfulness means intentionally and consciously paying attention to being in the present moment without letting judgement get in the way. It can help people suffering from harmful automatic thoughts to disengage from obsessive rumination and stay firmly grounded in the present.
For instance, if you’re constantly worrying about work problems when you’re trying to fall asleep, or you can’t concentrate on an important assignment because your mind keeps darting to an argument with a friend, you’re not focused on what is happening in the present moment.
Use your breath and your senses to bring yourself back to the here and now. Here are some short meditation practices that will help to train your mind.
2 – Take little baby steps
Ask yourself the old question: How do you eat an elephant? And the answer is always: One bite at a time. Whether you’re working to overcome depression or breaking an unhealthy habit, change won’t be happening overnight. The trick is to break the big goal down into lots of little easy-to-score goals. Psychologists call this ‘successive approximation’.
Map out the path to victory by setting yourself up for lots of little progressive ‘wins’ and celebrate each of your key achievement. Be proud of any positive change, however small, and recognise the fact that progress isn’t linear. Not only will this make the long journey to better mental health seem much less daunting, progress will happen slowly but surely.
3 – Reframe your negative thoughts
When you feel negative or depressed, it can be difficult to recognise that there are good things in life too. This can be particularly pronounced during autumn or winter, especially if you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Try to rebalance your mind by a simple exercise of writing down three positive things in your day. Continue your gratitude journal every day; it’s a powerful tool to help forge new associations in your mind that make it easier to see the positives.
You can intensify the process by consciously countering negative thoughts straight away. For example, if your first thought upon entering a room is that you hate the colour of the wall, push yourself to notice 5 things you like in the room (e.g. nice view from the window, lovely lampshade etc).
When you suffer from anxiety, you want to feel better as soon as possible.
These days many people seek cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as their treatment of choice for anxiety issues. This is because evidence-based research demonstrates that CBT for anxiety can be a highly effective treatment and GPs often recommend it.
How long will it take? This is a question many people ask when seeking treatment. (more…)
Certain fears are natural and reasonable, but others seem excessive in the face of the level of danger presented. Such fears cause unnecessary pain and distress. They can undermine self-confidence, block enjoyment and prevent you from doing things you might need or want to do.
If you suffer from an intense fear or dread regarding certain situations or things, you may be suffering from a phobia.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a particularly effective treatment for people wishing to deal with phobias. (more…)
The strong feelings of fear, unease and worry that are hallmarks of anxiety can have a very negative impact on your life. Making the decision to get help for anxiety is a positive step. At the same time, it merits the question: what treatment should you choose?
Two of the most popular treatments for anxiety are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and certain types of medication. This is due to the fact that both methods demonstrate good evidence in the successful treatment of anxiety.
However, is CBT more effective than medication in treating anxiety? How can you choose between the two, and when should you use both? (more…)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been gaining in popularity in recent years, as more people become aware of its effectiveness in treating common disorders such as anxiety and depression.
CBT is not a new therapy by any means and it has a practical structure which makes it easily measurable. These factors have resulted in a large body of successful clinical trials which, more recently, have secured its position as a recommended treatment on the NHS.
It happened again. One minute you were trying to fall asleep, and the next thing you knew, you were sitting up straight in your bed struggling to catch your breath. You started to pace, opened up a window, lay down, and sat back up again, but nothing seemed to help. As your heart pounded rapidly, your anxiety grew to the point that you wondered if this was the end for you. About 20 minutes later, however, you were still alive and able to see the incident for what it really was: another panic attack.
There are few things in life that are more frightening than experiencing a panic attack. This might be something you can brush off if it happens once or twice, but if you suffer from regular panic attacks, you need to find a good solution so you can take control of your life and not live in fear over when the next attack will occur. One way that a lot of people are successfully dealing with panic attacks is by turning to cognitive behavioural therapy. (more…)
When you’re feeling worried or stressed, would you say your thoughts are mostly positive or negative? If you’re like most people, negative thoughts run rampant and you might feel that you have trouble controlling them.
Some people who suffer from anxiety or depression say they wish they could “shut off” their thoughts. Often, it is actually these thoughts rather than the specific incident or situation that is causing the anxiety or depression in the first place. (more…)
Anxiety disorders can seriously affect your quality of life. If you worry nonstop, have obsessive thoughts or panic attacks, or suffer from a debilitating phobia, you might be one of the many people who suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Although this diagnosis might sound worrying, it can be helpful to identify the problem so that you can then take the necessary steps to start enjoying your life again.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is highly effective in helping people overcome anxiety disorders.
If you are suffering from depression, you might want to consider enlisting the help of a cognitive behavioural therapist to help you cope.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective psychological treatments for moderate to severe depression and can be just as effective as antidepressants.