When we think of negative thinking, we generally think of terms like pessimism, Negative Nancy, Debbie
Downer, etc. These phrases are so common that we’ve all heard and used the phases “Negative Nancy” or
“Debbie Downer” to describe the negative people in our lives or even to describe ourselves. No one wants to
be the person known as the pessimist or the one who brings the mood down where ever they are! But what
if I told you that there are other forms of negative thinking that could be making you just as negative as
Nancy and Debbie??
The other forms of negative thinking are called Cognitive Distortions. They are thoughts that cause us to think
irrationally and lead to negative emotions, harmful behaviors, and mental health problems if done too often.
To be fair, we all, at some level, have cognitive distortions, but it is when these types of thoughts become
intrusive, unmanageable, and in control of our emotions and behaviors that they are a problem.
Sooo What Are These Cognitive Distortions?
There are many different types of Cognitive Distortions. Here are the main 10 and what the thoughts may
1. Magnification and/or Minimization: Making the significance of an event bigger or smaller than
what it really is. For instance, this can involve maximizing the errors that you make or minimizing
your own accomplishments.
2. Catastrophizing: Thinking solely of the worst possible results of an event
3. Magical Thinking: Thinking that behaviors will lead to unconnected events. For example, this can
look like “I am a kind person, so everyone will be kind to me”
4. Personalization: Thinking you are responsible and taking on the responsibility for that which is
outside of your control. For example, “my boss is mad. He wouldn’t be mad if I got all of my work
5. Jumping to Conclusions: Assuming things without having any evidence or proof of the conclusion
you have thought of. For example, “I’m not going to go talk to them, they think I am weird” or “I
know if I go talk to them, it won’t end well”.
6. Emotional Reasoning: Thinking that your emotions are true. For example: “I feel like a failure, so I
must be a failure”
7. Disqualifying the Positive: Dismissing all of the positive and only looking at the negative. For
example, a boss may say you are a great worker and thank you for letting me know you were running
late, but please do not be late again. Instead of seeing the positive, you only focus on the part of you
8. Should Statements: Thinking things ‘should’ always be or happen in a particular way. “I should
always be kind to others”
9. All or Nothing Thinking: Thinking in absolutes like “always”, “never”, “every”. For example: “I never
do anything right”
10. Over Generalization: Thinking that one thing is now true for everything else. For example: “He was a
jerk. All guys are jerks”.
These may not seem that harmful or even that negative at first glimpse, but these thinking patterns create a
distorted reality that causes negative emotions, stress, and more negative thoughts that eventually lead to
anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Although it may be difficult to uproot these thinking
patterns, it is possible. The first step is recognizing that there is a need to change. Once you have that, you
are on your way! There is hope.
Don’t imprison your mind with negative thoughts.