Reframing 10 Cognitive Distortions Using CBT
What Are Cognitive Distortions?
Think of a room full of mirrors, all with different levels of distorted surfaces that refract and reflect the light, and yourself, in warped ways. Some may be subtle, some may be exaggerated, and some reflections may, in fact, be the real you. The “fun house of mirrors” is a great way to think about what cognitive distortions are: distortions of how we react to internal and external stimuli.
When the mind plays tricks on us through false thinking patterns based on an irrational belief system, it is cognitive distortion. These thoughts are usually inaccurate and negatively biased.
Cognitive distortions are a habitual way of thinking, leading to negative feelings and behaviors such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, and addiction, but how did these unwanted distortions develop?
Origins of Cognitive Distortions
When adverse events occur in our lives, the way we react to them internally may fluctuate depending on how we perceive the world around us. Often, it’s easy to react instantly and negatively to a perceived threat, where our cognitive response may not be reflective of the truth of what’s in front of us. This way of thinking stems from past and present traumas, from any insecurities we may have about ourselves or others, and/or from a variety of mental health reasons in our individual cognitive functioning.
The following ten cognitive distortions can be alleviated using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques.
- Polarized Thinking (All or Nothing) – This way of thinking is extreme and can lead to setbacks and relapses quite easily.
- An example would be if someone were trying to stop overeating and realized they had already gone over their daily limit, thinking the damage had already been done, then continued to binge.
- This form of thinking is done in absolute terms, as either black or white but nothing in-between.
- Personalization and Blame – This is one of the ten cognitive distortions that significantly benefit from CBT as it causes the blaming of either yourself or someone else entirely for a given situation even though there were other mitigating factors present that were out of your control.
- An example would be if a parent was not in their child’s life growing up and that child grew up blaming themselves for something out of their control.
- This form of thinking is based on pinpointing the reason something happened based on one particular person instead of realizing there were possibly many reasons involved.
- Magnification (or minimizing) – Another cognitive distortion that can benefit from a list of CBT techniques is taking something negative and magnifying it while bringing something positive and minimizing that resulting in feelings of worthlessness.
- An example would be if a person who had a fear of speaking in public gave a speech and did a great job except for a small blunder at the beginning which became the main focus instead of embracing the overall positive outcome.
- This type of cognitive distortion can be helped through CBT by changing the focus from the negative back to the positive.
- Overgeneralization – This distortion occurs when a person applies one negative experience to all of the same types of experiences, even those in the future.
- An example would be if someone spelled a word wrong and then began thinking they are never good at spelling.
- This form of thinking can be distressing but easily managed through CBT techniques.
- Jumping to Conclusions – Jumping to conclusions is easy, especially if we think we know the situation’s outcome. A person thinks someone will react in a certain way or predict how an event will unfold, known as mind-reading or fortune-telling.
- Labeling – Labeling is one of the ten cognitive distortions quickly helped with CBT as it involves making a judgment about oneself or someone else. Instead, seeing the behavior as a separate entity rather than defining who that person is.
- Emotional Reasoning – Emotional reasoning is not based on reality but rather on the person’s feelings about a given situation.
- An example would be someone feeling a lack of self worth and trying to find meaning in destructive patterns such as alcoholism or drug use.
- This form of thinking is based on a judgment of oneself based on emotions instead of facts.
- Mental Filtering – Mental filtering is a cognitive distortion that occurs when a person filters out positive thoughts and positive feedback, automatically replacing them with negative thoughts. This is common in those contending with depression and can lead to panic attacks, but CBT is a reliable treatment for alleviating this distorted thinking pattern.
- Should Statements – An incredibly self-defeating way of thinking, using “should statements” emphasizes unattainable standards.
- Disqualifying the Positive – When a person focuses only on the negative things happening while discounting all the positives, that person can experience debilitating low self-esteem and depression.
How CBT Works to Overcome the Ten Cognitive Distortions
One of the best forms of treatment for the ten cognitive distortions is (CBT), which provides positive ways to think about the things that are causing the inner turmoil.
CBT is based on thoughts creating feelings which then produce our behaviors or actions in response to those emotions. By simply changing the initial thought, we can ultimately shift the outcome of our behavior.
The list of CBT techniques is long and includes imagery-based exposure, relaxed breathing, exposure and response prevention, and cognitive restructuring.
Cognitive restructuring, also known as cognitive reframing, modifies or replaces the cognitive distortion’s negative and irrational thoughts.
- Step 1: Identify and Be Aware – Being able to identify and be aware of the negative thought is vital to stop and change it before it can affect you.
- Step 2: Question the Thoughts – Ask yourself important questions.
- Is the thought genuinely realistic, and is it based on fact or feeling alone?
- What is the evidence for this thought, and could there be any misinterpretations of this thought?
- Are there facts to support this thought, or does it come from an unsubstantiated place in my subconscious mind?
- Step 3: Evaluate the True Origin of Thought – Learning more about what is hindering your mental wellbeing by pinpointing the origin is the key to unlocking the chains that bind your happiness.
At Miami Hypnosis and Therapy, we offer integrative CBT to overcome the ten cognitive distortions. By implementing CBT with other forms of therapy such as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy, we work with you to transform and reframe your thoughts in a new, positive light..
Let go of the negative thoughts and take charge of the way you think. Conqueror unwanted beliefs and start feeling happier and healthier. Take that first step to overcome whatever cognitive distortion is holding you back from living the life you deserve, and contact us today!