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CBT - Common Unhelpful Thought Patterns

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps you to identify unhelpful thought patterns so that they can be labelled and challenged.

Here are some common examples:

Overgeneralization: Generalizing one experience, thought, or feeling to all experiences. Generally comes with words like “always” and “everything.”

For example: “I always screw up.” “Everyone hates me.”

Global labeling: Giving yourself a label as if it can describe you in entirety (or at all). Generally come as “I am” statements.

For example: “I am a loser.” “I am a bad mom.” “I am a failure.”

Catastrophizing: Believing that circumstances are a catastrophe and that you are unable to handle them.

For example: “I can’t do this anymore!” “If xyz happened, I’d fall apart!”

Minimizing: Negating important parts of a situation or circumstance. Undervaluing valuable things. Mentally talking down to and devaluing self.

Comparative Thinking: Assuming other people are better. Comparing yourself to others and believing that you always lose the contest.

For example: “She’s prettier than me.” “She’s got it all together.” “She’s skinnier than me.” “She’s smarter than me.”

Jumping to Conclusions: Making a judgement based on little or no information.

Two common types of this:

Mind Reading- Assuming people are thinking or feeling negative things when there is no definite or provable evidence for this.

Fortune-telling- Predicting that bad things will happen in the future.

Should/Must Statements: Self-critical or self-bullying statements usually accompanied by “should” and “must.”

For example: “I should not be feeling this.” “I must figure out how to work harder.” “I should be happy now.” “I should not have said that.”

Blaming: Putting all energy and responsibility on someone or something else.

For example: “She ruined my day.” “He is making me feel this way.” “They always put me in this position.”

Personalization: Excessive blaming of self.

For example: “If I hadn’t…”

Dichotomous Thinking (black and white, all or nothing): Something is either 100% good or 100% bad. The problem is that things are very rarely this way and often that ends up putting everything in the “bad” space. Meaning, if I can find one bad thing about something or someone, then it’s all bad.

For example: labeling foods, circumstances, people as “good” or “bad”

Take some time today to think about these unhelpful thought patterns. Identify some recurrent thoughts and which patterns to which you are prone. In the next post, we will take a look at one exercise for challenging these automatic negative thoughts.

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