Rethinking Cognitive Distortions
Our minds do not always work like we want. Sometimes we suffer from cognitive distortions. These thought distortions inhibit our ability to perceive the world. We judge and interact with the world we see. But therein lies the problem. Sometimes we do not “see” as clearly as we believe. And often, what we learn as normal becomes something quite alien.
In this article, Southeast Addiction investigates:
- Cognitive distortions.
- What causes distortions in cognition?
- Examples of thought distortions.
- How can a person overcome cognitive distortions?
- What if I want more information about cognitive distortions?
What Are Cognitive Distortions?
We all prefer to think we do the right things. We think correct thoughts. Then, we make right choices. Or, so we tell ourselves. “Cognitive” means having to do with thinking. And a “distortion” has been changed or manipulated. Therefore, consider cognitive distortions as twisted, incorrect ways of thinking.
How we think about the world impacts how we act. Our thoughts influence everything around us. They affect our relationships, our work, and our leisure. How we think also produces lasting effects on mental health. Depression and anxiety both involve our thoughts. This makes one reason why cognitive behavior therapy helps us.
What Causes Distortions In Cognition?
We all enter the world the same way. Shriveled, scared, and crying. At this age, our parents remain our most significant teachers. How they view the world informs how they teach us. They perceive reality in a certain way. They employed the wisdom they had. And then they pass that wisdom onto us. Whether through nature or nurture, our families of origin affect how we think.
How we educate ourselves can help (or hinder) our cognition. As can our socioeconomic status. Our peer play a large influence in our thinking as well. But we must not forget about the single greatest contributing factor to distorted cognition – our own minds. On a certain level, we think a certain way because we choose to. Choice may represent the most important element in our thought lives.
What Are Examples Of Thought Distortions?
To compile an exhaustive list of cognitive distortions might prove impossible. Nevertheless, consider the below examples as a starting point. Remember, it might seem easy to find these thinking flaws in others. Instead, let us first look for them in ourselves.
This distortion views every situation or problem as having only one of two solutions. All-or-nothing thinking fails to take the nuances of life into account. You may hear it called “black-or-white thinking” as well. This perspective makes statements like:
- It’s either this or it’s that.
- There is no middle ground.
- You’re with me, or you’re against me.
Sometimes life appears bleak. And often, things don’t turn out how we want. But to assume that the worst will happen gives us another cognitive distortion. We call this catastrophizing. It means to believe that the most undesirable outcome shall always come to pass.
Our feelings can indicate that something wrong has happened. But our feelings do no create reality by themselves. When we feel a certain way and then believe that something has happened, we use emotional reasoning. Examples of emotional reasoning include ideas such as:
- They didn’t like my work, they must not like me.
- My kids are angry, I’m an inadequate parent.
- I made a mistake, I’m an awful person.
Disqualifying The Positive
Very few of our experiences are completely good or bad. Nevertheless, we tend to remember negative experiences more easily than positive ones. When the good things about a situation become irrelevant, we disqualify the positive. We forget, or downplay, helpful or beneficial things that may have happened.
Perhaps you’ve blamed yourself for something. Maybe you feel like everything falls solely on you. We call this cognitive distortion personalization. It means a tendency to hold oneself responsible for things. Even things far outside one’s control.
How Can A Person Overcome Cognitive Distortions?
To change our thinking, we must change our thinking. Easier said than done, right? Therapeutic approaches like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) help us do just that. Often, we trust our thoughts too much. We let them zoom around our heads without any checks or balances. And we identify too much with what we think.
Measures like CBT help us critique our thoughts. We learn how to think about what we think about. To find the sources of these cognitive distortions, we must look for where these thoughts originate. We must ask why we have them. In doing that, we can clarify our thinking.
What If I Want More Information About Cognitive Distortions?
Cognitive distortions relate to mental health and addiction. Southeast Addiction offers several different treatment protocols. We treat each person as unique. If you would like more information about our programs, don’t wait any longer! Reach out to us via phone or email right now.