Our mind is a powerful tool to understand and make sense of the world. However, it sometimes leads us down the wrong path. Our thoughts and perceptions can become distorted, significantly impacting our emotions and overall well-being.
Likewise, our thoughts can also influence the intensity and duration of everything we feel. Therefore, it is healthy to pay attention to our thought patterns in order to understand ourselves and to be able to identify when they are not entirely accurate, to avoid suffering from our own interpretations of reality.
WHAT ARE COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS?
They are irrational or biased thought patterns that affect our perception of reality. In other words, they are incorrect ways in which we process information. Misinterpretations of what is happening around us, which has multiple negative consequences.
CONSEQUENCES OF COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS
They can generate intense negative emotions such as anxiety, sadness, anger, or frustration. These distortions distort our perception of reality and lead us to interpret situations in a negative way, which affects our emotional well-being.
Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
They affect our interactions with others. For example, if we tend to interpret others’ comments as criticism or personal attacks, we are likely to feel constantly defensive and experience difficulties relating to others.
Many cognitive distortions are associated with a negative view of oneself. It leads us to evaluate our actions as “all or nothing”, which can generate low self-esteem if we do not reach the standards of perfection that we impose on ourselves.
Limitations in decision making
They can bias our thinking and affect our ability to make rational decisions. For example, drawing exaggerated conclusions from a single event can lead us to make decisions based on unfounded assumptions.
Maintenance of psychological problems
They can contribute to the maintenance of psychological problems such as depression or anxiety because they reinforce and perpetuate negative thoughts and a pessimistic view of reality.
THE MOST COMMON COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS
This type of cognitive distortion is characterized by coming to see things in extreme terms, disregarding nuances or intermediate options. Situations are perceived as “all or nothing”, without considering the possibility that multiple perspectives or mixed outcomes may exist.
“If I’m not successful at everything, then I’m a total failure.”
“If I made a mistake during a presentation at my job, then I am incompetent at my job.”
This distortion involves drawing general conclusions from limited events or experiences. We take a single instance and apply it to all situations, without considering variables or exceptions. Something happens once and we assume it is always so and will be so in the future.
“I was turned down on a date, which proves that no one will find me attractive.”
“If this person cheated me, everyone else will cheat me. I can’t trust anyone.”
This distortion involves selectively filtering information, focusing only on the negative aspects of a situation while ignoring the positive aspects. Favorable achievements and events are minimized or considered irrelevant, while negative aspects are amplified and given greater importance.
“Despite receiving many compliments, I only focus on one negative comment.”
“Despite having a nice time with someone, I think about how I thought of saying that stupid thing. I’m sure he thinks I’m stupid and doesn’t want to meet me again.”
Interpretation of thought
It is a cognitive distortion in which we tend to attribute negative or unfavorable meanings to events, actions, or words, even when there is no clear evidence to support those interpretations.
“He seems to really care about what I’m saying, but I know he thinks I’m an incompetent person.”
“I’m sure this person hasn’t replied to my WhatsApp because I did something wrong or they don’t care enough to reply to me.”
This cognitive distortion involves anticipating and exaggerating the possibility of negative events occurring. There is a tendency to imagine worst-case scenarios without considering the actual likelihood of their occurrence. This can lead to anxiety and excessive worry.
“I’m sure at the presentation, I’ll forget everything I’m supposed to say and make a fool of myself.”
“The pain I feel in my head, I’m sure it’s a terminal illness.”
It is when we tend to attribute personal responsibility for external negative events, believing that we are the cause or the reason for what happens, even when there are other factors involved. We take unjustified blame and feel responsible for situations that are beyond our control. It is a way of feeling that we are the center of attention for everything bad that happens.
“I always mess things up, I’m sure I was the cause of the problem this time too.”
“I feel like I’m the reason for my family’s unhappiness. It always seems like everything falls apart when I’m around.”