Anxiety – Cognitive Distortions
Start doing some self-examination. Ask yourself what are some of the people and/or situations that trigger your anxiety. Also begin examining some of your symptoms. Try to be as specific as possible. This will give you greater insight and more ability to regulate your anxiety. Talking with a friend or family member whom you trust about your anxiety or writing in a journal can be quite helpful at this stage of addressing your anxiety. Below, you’ll find a list of some of the most common cognitive distortions that help perpetuate anxiety.
- Jumping to Conclusions – This involves going straight to a negative interpretation without any proof to support the conclusion.
- “Should” and “Must” Statements – Holding onto a rigid set of rules that everyone, including yourself, must follow. Example: “I shouldn’t make mistakes!” These types of beliefs lead to guilt, shame, and anxiety.
- Discounting the Positive – When you do something positive you discount it as luck or because of someone else’s actions.
- Emotional reasoning – Telling yourself that because you feel something then it must be true. Example: “I feel stupid, therefore I am stupid.”
- All-or-Nothing Thinking – Evaluating things in black and white categories. Example: if you fail, you believe you are a total failure.
- Overgeneralization – Making a generalized conclusion based on one situation or piece of evidence. Example: “I did poorly on my exam, therefore I’ll never do well in school.”
- Mental Filter – Picking out a single negative detail and dwelling on it exclusively.
- Catastrophizing – This involves turning things into the worst-case scenario. Example: “He’s ten minutes late. This is awful! He probably got into a car accident and is dead.”
- Labeling and Mislabeling – This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Example: Instead of describing a mistake you made, you attach a negative label to yourself. “I tripped while running, I’m a loser.”
- Personalization – Believing you are the cause of an external negative event that you actually had no control over.