C is for Cognitive

Cognition is a huge part of mental health. That’s why I have dedicated the letter “C” from the A to Z blogging challenge to cognitive aspects of depression. I have already talked about the cognitive dysfunction experienced by some depression sufferers and how to combat those symptoms. Today I want to talk about a popular topic in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), cognitive distortions.

What is CBT? CBT assumes a relationship between thoughts, mood and behaviour and by changing maladaptive thinking, you can change your mood and your behaviour. The idea is to challenge your negative way of thinking. These automatic negative thoughts are called cognitive distortions. There are methods to counteract these cognitive distortions but first, you must learn to catch yourself in a negative thought. To do this I kept a Thought Record. I recorded the situation, what I was thinking and the cognitive distortion. Here is a list of the most common cognitive distortions.

how i feel

Negative Thoughts – Emotional Reasoning

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking. This is when you look at things in absolute categories; black or white. You forget about the continuum, the shades of grey. If you make a mistake, you see yourself as a total failure.
  • Over-generalization. This is when you look at a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. If it happened once, it will always happen.
  • Discounting the Positives. This was one of my first posts. You ignore your accomplishments and good qualities. It’s like they don’t count for anything.
  • Mind-Reading. You assume you know what other people are thinking, failing to consider more likely possibilities. For example, when someone laughs, you think they are laughing at you, but really they are probably having a conversation or remembering something cute their kid did that morning.
  • Labeling. You identify yourself with your short-comings instead of considering a more complex reality. Instead of shrugging off a mistake, you conclude you are a loser because of it.
  • Magnification/minimization. You blow a negative situation out of proportion or shrink a good situation inappropriately.
  • “Shoulds”. You motivate and criticize yourself with “shoulds”, “ought to’s”, “have to’s” and “musts”.
  • Emotional Reasoning. You feel it therefore you are. I feel fat therefore, I must BE fat.
  • Personalization. You blame yourself for something that wasn’t entirely under your control. I blame myself for not getting a lot of research data. In reality, there are a lot of factors that contribute to this. For example, people don’t want to participate!
  • Filtering. You dwell on the negative and ignore the rest of the situation.
  • Catastrophizing. You automatically assume the situation will turn out badly without considering other outcomes. You fear one negative event will be part of a chain of negative events without end.
  • Selective abstraction. You jump to conclusions without having all the facts.

Once you are able to identify these cognitive distortions it is time to come up with a strategy to challenge them. Being a scientist, I find it easiest to look at the facts of the situation. What are the facts? What information do I have to support my thoughts? What is the proof? You can use previous experiences too. What has happened in similar situation? How did I cope? What have I learned that will help me this time? This line of thinking does not come naturally. You have to literally stop what you are doing and think about it, ask yourself these questions. The good news? It does get easier and more natural over time. It has helped me to manage my anxiety. I hope it helps you too.

32 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gretchen Joy
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 10:08:05

    I used to “should” all over myself. Carrie Bradshaw (yes, I’m quoting her… haha) once said “Stop shoulding all over yourself” and I loved that. It is so easy to get into these patterns, especially when depression has changed so much of who you are and how you think.

    Did you do that drawing with the words on the girls body? I seriously love that. 🙂


  2. nembow
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 11:48:25

    I can so relate to all of these! It’s a scary list of the way I used to think and sometimes still do. But it’s great to identify them because that means you can do something about them. The one I seem to be constantly dealing with is All or Nothing Thinking. That’s what’s knocked me off many a healthy eating plan. I’m getting a handle on it though! Thanks for sharing. 🙂


  3. Sylvie Charment
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 12:08:54

    Great post full of wonderful information. Thank you for this!


  4. Natalie Zaman
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 12:40:25

    Another great and useful post. Catching yourself myself in negative thinking patterns took (and still takes) practice–but is worth it. 🙂


  5. Sakshi
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 13:45:05

    I can relate to all of it totally. It is really scary. But I am working on things.. I am hoping to be much more in control of things and life.


  6. inmindsight
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 15:54:17

    Love this blog. Thank you for all the time you put into it.
    Maggie D’Amato Goins


  7. anxiousgeek
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 16:41:15

    I had CBT a few years ago, it did me wonders. Great blog.

    scruffy-duck.net // Welsh Bloggers


  8. Trackback: C is for Cognitive | the blind flight
  9. zenkatwrites
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 18:10:56

    GREAT post. Thanks for stopping by. We have a lot in common. (You saw me as dkateipowellart.)


  10. achieve1dream
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 21:02:39

    Oh wow I do almost all of those things! I’m so happy to read this post and the comments about how well CBT works. I’ve been trying to convince myself to find a CBT therapist and get help for years, but I kept talking myself out of it when I felt better (and I was too scared). After a month this last winter when I could barely function at all I finally decided to go to one. I was totally dreading it and terrified, but the more I read things like this the more I’m feeling better about it. I’m almost getting excited about going… is that weird? Now I just need the find one…. am I missing something? Do they go by a different name beside Cognitive Behavior Therapy? I can’t find one anywhere. Beginning to think I’ll have to go to a regular one and get referred to one that uses CBT. I’m so glad I found your blog through the A to Z challenge because I think it’s going to be very helpful for me. Thank you for all the work you put into it.


  11. achieve1dream
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 22:00:09

    I meant thank you… I hate when I accidentally add that extra s and then don’t proofread lol! That’s what I get for being in a hurry. 😀


  12. Christy@SweetandSavoring
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 22:19:57

    This was the perfect post for me to read tonight. My friend and I were just talking about negative thought patterns at dinner tonight, how it’s nearly impossible to separate yourself from your thoughts. We are both so guilty of all those things you mentioned. Great topic for C!


  13. Teri
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 23:28:21

    Hi, thanks for stopping by my blog.


  14. Mary
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 23:40:05

    Great information on your blog today. I know that your theme will serve to help someone over the course of this A-to-Z Challenge. I am more aware. Also, thanks for stopping by my blog today.
    Mary@The View from my World


  15. lynneinpborough
    Apr 04, 2014 @ 03:54:17

    I think this AtoZ I’m going to be working on myself more than I’d anticipated. Great read and lots of useful info. Thanks.


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