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Welcome to Creative CBT. This is the website of therapist/life coach Benjamin Mathews. Benjamin specialises in cognitive behavioural therapy via the internet. If you are new, why not check out the Getting started tab on the right hand side? Alternatively, click here if you would like to contact Benjamin or make an appointment.

Do you have any of these 12 errors in thinking? Cognitive Distortions - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

According to cognitive behavioural therapy there are certain errors in thinking that can be unhealthy and could predispose you to conditions such as depression, anxiety, low self esteem, phobias and, theoretically, even schizophrenia. These errors in thinking are known as 'cognitive distortions'. The first step to modifying  thinking is to identify these errors in thinking. See if you can identify any of these in your own thoughts:
  1. All or Nothing Thinking / Black and White Thinking /  Absolutism

  2. With this error in thinking everything is either black or white, there is grey, there is no in-between. The individual tends to always classify things in extreme ways. Everything is a dichotomised, efforts are either successes or failures, feelings are either that of love or hate, if you are not thin then you must be fat. There is no middle ground. Think of those annoying rules: "there are only two kinds of people in this world...".
    View the comic for thinking error #1


  3. Catastrophising / Fortune Telling

  4. You predict that the future will be negative, without considering other likely outcomes. You cannot see any outcome other than the worst possible outcome. For instance, your boss asks you to see him in his office and you begin to worry that he is going to fire you, then you won't have enough money to pay the rent, then your partner will leave you, and finally no one will ever hire you or love you again and your life as you know it will be over.
    View the comic for thinking error #2


  5. Discounting the Positive

  6. In the case of depression, for instance, people tend to view themselves as total failures and as incompetent. Any information to the contrary is discounted. A person believes they are totally inept at their job or at school or as a partner, focusing only on information that confirms their belief. If there is a situation where they had some small victory at work, school or in their relationship, they think to themselves that it must be due to luck or some other outside factor. It wasn't their skill, it couldn't be, because they are a complete failure, after all.
    View the comic for thinking error #3


  7. Emotional reasoning

  8. You think that something must be true because you have strong feelings that tell you that it is true (these strong feelings are your actually your unconscious beliefs). As a consequence of this feeling and this belief, you ignore or discount evidence to the contrary.
    View the comic for thinking error #4


  9. Labelling / Mislabelling

  10. You put a fixed label on yourself or others without considering evidence that might show otherwise or lead to a less disastrous conclusion. For example, you decide that someone is a loser, or an idiot, a genius, skinny, beautiful, ugly etc. Suddenly your expectations for yourself or others are limited by the label and the label seems unalterable: a permanent characteristic that cannot be changed. They can do X because they are smart. I shouldn't do X because I am Y. Suddenly the label becomes an excuse.
    View the comic for thinking error #5


  11. Magnification/minimalisation

  12. When you evaluate yourself, another person or a situation, you unreasonably magnify the negative and/or minimise the positive. For instance, you tend to focus on perceived failure making it seem almost inevitable, alternatively you blow problems out of proportion and "make a mountain out of a molehill". At the same time, however, you may reduce your perception of the many strengths or opportunities that realistically could be available to you.


  13. Mental Filter / Slective abstraction

  14. You pay too much attention to the negative detail instead of seeing the whole picture. For instance, in a feedback sheet you focus on the one area of low ratings instead of also looking at the many areas with high ratings.


  15. Mind Reading

  16. You think that you can read the minds of other people and you know what they are thinking. As a result you don't consider other more likely possibilities. For instance, you think that someone thinks you are stupid, or ugly, or that they are scheming against you.
    View the comic for thinking error #8


  17. Overgenerlisation

  18. You make a sweeping conclusion/wide generalisation based on one isolated event or occurrence.


  19. Personalization

  20. You attribute the cause everything negative to yourself or your actions. If someone is rude to you, they are rude because of something you did. If a project fails it fails because of something you did. If a relationship breaks down it was because of you and you alone.
    View the comic for thinking error #10


  21. "Should" and "must" statements (also called imperatives)

  22. You have a fixed idea of how you or others should behave and you overestimate the consequence of not meeting these expectations.
    View the comic for thinking error #11


  23. Tunnel Vision

  24. You only see the negative aspects of a situation. It seems as if the positives are invisible to you. No matter what good things may happen, or what positive characteristics a person may have, you only see the bad.
If you saw some of these errors in thinking in yourself, you have made the first step towards overcoming them. It is important to note that while sometimes while using these errors in thinking your thoughts might be correct, other times they are incorrect. The key here is that these type of errors in thinking are flawed, and it is better to weigh the evidence in an objective way than to resort to these types of thought patterns. Using the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy you can identify these errors in thinking and overcome them by learning a better alternative. Remember, CBT teaches that your feelings come from these types of thoughts, and to mend your feelings and your behaviours, you have to mend your thinking.

For further information or to book a counselling session, please contact: 

Errors in thinking adapted from Judith Beck's book: Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond pg. 119