Common Thinking Distortions


It may be beneficial to identify common thinking distortions in your own thinking! These manners of thinking can become exaggerated when anxious or depressed. Once you recognize these distortions, it’s easier to limit or stop these thought patterns in the future!

Common thinking distortions:

  • Black & white thinking: thinking in absolutes, things are either good or bad, with no middle ground. Practice thinking about the “gray areas” between the 2 absolutes.
  • Catastrophizing: tending to massively exaggerate the importance of events and how terrible they are going to be. Things rarely are as important as you let yourself believe, and things rarely go as wrong as you can imagine.
  • Emotional reasoning: believing your feelings are hard evidence of the way things are. Feelings give a warped view of reality. Try to think about the facts of the situation.
  • Fortune telling: making predictions about things you have no evidence for, such as how people think, what will happen, or what someone will say to you.
  • Labeling: attaching definite and general labels such as “useless” or “failure” to things that are far to complex to be categorized.
  • Living by fixed rules: Tending to live by rigid statements and use words like “should”, “must” and “can’t”. The more rigid the statements, the more disappointed/angry you will feel.
  • Low frustration tolerance: assuming things that are merely annoying are intolerable or unbearable. Exaggerating how bad a situation is and minimizing the ability to cope.
  • Negative focus: tending to focus on the negative; ignoring, downplaying, or misinterpreting the positives of a situation. Obsessing over the bad points and dismissing the good points.
  • Personalizing: taking responsibility and blame for everything even if it has nothing to do with you.

I may have had all of these thinking distortions at some point… some are exacerbated by my bipolar disorder, either the mania or depression, such as black and white thinking. Look through these and see if identifying your distortions helps you! 🙂


Helpful source: “How to be Happy (or at Least Less Sad)” by Lee Crutchley- an adorable depression/anxiety workbook!


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