Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Favorite Cognitive Distortions

I was reading an interesting article in the Atlantic, about how the newest version of “political correctness” on college campuses, such as “trigger warnings,” might really be exacerbating and even causing anxiety and depression in students.

I have a knack for making everything about myself, however. What caught my eye was a sidebar listing the “common cognitive distortions” of anxiety and depression.

And they looked like old friends.

Cognitive distortions are false habits of thinking that lead people to feel bad.

I do some of them. Others, I deal with in other people.

Some favorites:

Catastrophizing: Oh, yeah. This is thinking of the worst possible outcome in any situation. My entire family has a gift for doing this.

Black and white thinking is seeing one bad thing in a person or a situation and deciding the whole thing just sucks and always will suck.

Emotional reasoning is when you are convinced that what you feel is how things really are. Have you ever done something that you dreaded, only to find yourself surprised that it wasn’t anywhere as bad as you thought it would be? Bingo.

Personalization is constantly comparing yourself to others, trying to figure how you rank in terms of success or smartness or good looks, like life is one big competition.

Blaming is feeling that someone, preferably never you, has to be held responsible for every bad thing that happens. Ever find yourself saying, “I told you so”?

Fallacy of change is thinking that other people should do the way you want and that you can make them, if you just keep pressing them relentlessly.

The thing is, I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t do at least some of these things, some of the time. How about you?


  1. Castrophizing, for sure. In my family, growing up, if you imagined the worst, then it won't happen. I guess that's all part of "magical thinking." My mother was a big believer in the fallacy of change. Her middle name was Relentless.

    1. I just realized I misspelled catastrophizing. "Castrophizing"--isn't that where you lie awake nights worrying about Cuba?