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Why am I thinking this way? Cognitive Distortions

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Do you ever feel like your emotions are out of control or out of sync with others around you? Do you ever see yourself critically despite evidence to the contrary? Is it ever difficult to form and keep relationships, make decisions, or relieve the anxiety you feel? It could be due to your thinking patterns...and you are not alone--every person has cognitive distortions.

Cognitive distortions, also known as thinking errors or irrational beliefs, are patterns of thought that can lead to inaccurate perceptions of reality. These distortions, though often automatic and subtle, can significantly impact our emotions, behaviors, and overall well-being. To fight these distortions we can recognize the effects they have on us, identify exactly what our distortion is, and then explore strategies to counteract them.

1. Emotional Turmoil:

Cognitive distortions have a profound impact on our emotional well-being. Negative thought patterns such as catastrophizing, where we magnify the importance of a situation, or black-and-white thinking, which views situations as either all good or all bad, can intensify negative emotions like anxiety, sadness, and anger. These distortions can create a loop of negative emotions that can be difficult to escape.

2. Reduced Self-Esteem:

Thinking errors can contribute to low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. People prone to distortions like personalization often blame themselves for external events, leading to feelings of guilt or shame. Similarly, self-blame and labeling can result in a negative self-image, impacting confidence and self-worth.

3. Interpersonal Challenges:

Cognitive distortions can strain relationships by coloring our perceptions of others. Mind-reading, a distortion where we assume we know what others are thinking, can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. Filtering, which involves selectively focusing on negative aspects of a situation, can result in miscommunication and strained interactions.

4. Decision-Making Impairment:

Distorted thinking can hinder effective decision-making. Overgeneralization, where a single negative event is applied to all situations, can lead to risk aversion and missed opportunities. Additionally, emotional reasoning, relying on feelings rather than evidence, may lead to impulsive choices based on distorted perceptions.

5. Perpetuation of Mental Health Issues:

Cognitive distortions can contribute to the development and maintenance of mental health disorders. Individuals struggling with disorders like depression and anxiety often exhibit distorted thinking patterns that exacerbate their symptoms. Addressing these distortions through therapy or self-help strategies can be crucial for managing and recovering from such conditions.

6. Impact on Goal Achievement:

Thinking errors can hinder progress toward personal and professional goals. Magnification of obstacles and minimization of successes can impede motivation and perseverance. By distorting our perceptions of progress, cognitive distortions can make it challenging to stay focused and maintain a growth mindset.

If we were to be honest with ourselves when reading these descriptions, I think every one of us could see times when a cognitive distortion has affected our lives. These thinking patterns can create intricate webs of thought that can weave their way into various aspects of our lives ad be destructive. When we begin to see their effects, we gain the power to identify and challenge these distortions leading to improved emotional well-being, healthier relationships, and more effective decision-making.

When it seems too much to bear, it is time to seek help. Distortions can get in the way of actively seeking help, but the sooner we get help the better we will be. If we find ourselves trapped in our distortions, we can remember the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8 "whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things."

If you or someone you know are struggling with their thinking patterns, let's talk! You can start by filling out a contact form at

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