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Thinking Traps: 10 unhelpful ways of thinking that affects your Mental Health.

Are you aware of these beliefs that are limiting you?


Cognitive Distortions are faulty patterns of thinking that cause you to view your reality in inaccurate and negative ways.


  • I have the worst luck in the world.

  • Everything is wrong with today!

  • I'm feeling anxious, something must be wrong with me.


These are all example of cognitive distortions, and our beliefs in them affects the way we behave and feel.


Everyone experiences such cognitive distortions from time to time. However, when they start to spiral out of control and cause our experience of life to suffer, that's when you need to start paying more attention to them.


It actually forms the basis behind Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT). When you see a CBT Therapist, he or she might help you identify such distorted ways of thinking or beliefs. Together, you'll learn to dispute and challenge them, so they don't have so much control over the way you think and feel.


Below, I'll share 10 cognitive distortions from CBT. Take a look and see if you can bring up instances where such ways of thinking is affecting your mental health.



1) Emotional Reasoning


Emotional reasoning is the false belief that your emotions are a reflection of reality. While it's important to pay attention to your emotions, it's equally important to understand why and look at rational evidence from reality if the intensity of your


feelings match whatever the real event is.


What it looks like:

  • "I feel anxious, so something must be wrong".

  • "I'm feel unloved because my partner is working late. He must not love me."

  • "I feel embarrassed so I must be an idiot.



2) Over-generalisation


This kind of thinking occurs when you reach a conclusion about one event and you start to apply the same rule and conclusion to all other events. While forming rules can guide us in life, sometimes these rules apply to just one situation and not others. In such cases, try looking out for exceptions to the rule.


Some examples:

  • "I failed one of my exams. I don't think I'm cut out for university".

  • "My girlfriend broke up with me. I don't think I'm suitable for relationships".

  • "I made a mistake today. Everything always goes wrong with me".




3) Mental Filters


Mental Filters are about paying attention only to certain types of evidence or information - often the negative ones. You might be biased to focus on the negative events exclusively, and disregard all other counter-evidence.


Some examples include:

  • "People only seem to enjoy being around me when I drink."

  • "I received my employee review but I can't stop thinking about that one bad comment from my manager".

  • "Ah I thought the date went well until I got home and realised there was a vegetable stuck in my teeth. It's ruined now".




4) Discounting the Positives


Like the above, discounting the positives also involves a negative bias in thinking. The difference is that in this one, you do see the good things when they come, but attribute them to sheer luck or as a fluke.


  • "I got a good performance review this year. It was probably just good luck."

  • "Yeah I did get employee of the month once, but that doesn't count. Just a fluke".




5) Personalisation


This kind of thinking happens when you blame and assume responsibility for the bad things that happen, even when it's out of your control. To counteract this kind of thinking, learn to recognise what you can or cannot control - remember that the only thing and person you can really can control, is you.


What it looks like:

  • "My friends went out without me, it must be that I am boring or annoying".

  • "My partner is taking a while to reply me, I must have said something wrong."




6) All of Nothing thinking


Also known as Black or White thinking, or Polarised thinking. It's a thought pattern that doesn't allow you to see in shades of grey. Everything is at the extremes. This kind of thinking isn't helpful because you leads you to an everything or nothing mentality.


What it looks like:

  • "I got an A- exams while I normally get a B. I am a failure".

  • "I was trying to quit alcohol but I had 1 drink this week. I cannot never quit."

  • "If I don't get this work done perfectly, I'm going to get fired".




7) Catastrophizing


Catastrophising is when you blow something entirely out of proportion. You assume the worst case scenario, magnifying the positives and minimising the negatives.


This kind of thinking is harmful it might cause you to experience severe anxiety. You begin to assume the worst and your ordinary worries become catastrophic.


  • "There is a lot of traffic today, I'm never going to get to the office on time".

  • "It's been two weeks since I lost my job. I'm never going to find another one".

  • "I'm still feeling depressed. I'm going to be depressed all my life."




8) Mind reading


Mind reading is a typical habit of an over-sensitive person. You engage in mind reading when you assume someone is going to act in a particular way, even when they don't intend to. You might also believe you know what the person is thinking, even when they aren't.


Again, it's better to consider all the evidence, and not just the ones that confirm your suspicions or beliefs. Some mind reading examples include:

  • "I wanted to go up and say hi to my friend, but her expression looks negative. I don't think she wants to see me".

  • "My husband didn't say good night to me today, maybe he's unhappy with me today".




9) Labelling


As the name suggests, Labelling is about reducing behaviours of either yourself or another person into a single characteristic or label. When you label, you're defining yourself or others based on a single event or behaviour. This kind of thinking might cause you to be harsher on yourself or others more than necessary.


Some examples include:

  • "I'm really useless, a good for nothing".

  • "He is a drunkard, don't hang out with him".

  • "I'm such an idiot".




10) "Should" Statements


Last but not least, when you define your life in terms of "Should" and "Ought", you might be setting expectations that are of a self-defeative nature. Whether it's used to describe the past (I should've) or future (I should), they aren't helpful when they lead you take a negative view on life.


Instead, try reframing your thoughts in terms of "I'd prefer to have" or "It'll be nice if". Some examples include:

  • "I should lose some weight."

  • "I should've finished my work an hour ago".

  • "I should have a girlfriend by now".




The solution: Be aware of your thoughts and reframe them.


I hope that this article has helped you become aware of the unhelpful thought patterns you might have. Don't worry, all of fall prey to one or more of the above cognitive distortions.


The important thing is whether thinking in such ways is causing you distress or not. If that's a yes, then keep a watch out for that thought. When it comes, make sure you catch it and then look at evidence that speak to contrary.


You might it easier to remember by using the 3C's:

  1. Catch that thought.

  2. Check how true it is.

  3. Carry on Rocking!



Thanks for reading Kaya Toast for the Soul. Email me anytime you have questions. Cheers!


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