Problematic Thinking Patterns

Some situations can really make us feel lousy and often we don’t even know why we get stuck in a negative mood. Our moods can get into a downward spiral when negative thoughts creep into our minds without us even knowing. Most of the time, these thoughts are not backed by facts. So the best way to get rid of these negative unfounded thoughts is to identify if it’s not true.

Here’s how you can identify distorted thinking
  • Distorted thinking or Problematic thinking patterns are thoughts that are irrational and not factual.
  • Think about a situation that always gets you down. Think about the thoughts that you have about that situation and see which of the following category it fits into:


(1) Over generalization
  • we come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  • Example: Susan’s ex-boyfriend James was usually late for their dates.  Susan is hesitant to date again.
  • Susan’s thought:Bad Thoughts example


(2) Catastrophizing
  • Blowing expected consequences out of proportion in a negative direction.
  • Example: The teacher told Mary that she didn’t do too well for a Math test.
  • Mary’s Thoughts:

Bad Thoughts Example


(3) Heaven’s reward fallacy
  • We expect our sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone is keeping score. We feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.
  • Example: Jorden has been doing all his science homework diligently and submitting it on time but he didn’t get selected to be the Science Monitor for his class.
  • Jorden’s thoughts:

Bad Thoughts example


(4) Black or white thinking
  • Viewing situations, people, or self as entirely bad or entirely good, nothing in between.
  • Example: When Peter brought his vegetable salad to his friends potluck, the host commented, ‘’That’s our third salad.
  • Peter’s thought:




(5) Exaggerating
  • Making self-critical or other critical statements that include terms like never, nothing, everything or always
  • Example: Jack was not in school when his friends planned an outing and he was accidentally overlooked.
  • Jack’s thought:



(6) Filtering
  • Ignoring the positive things that happen and choosing to focus on the negative instead.
  • Example: Kate had her hair cut short and styled differently. After receiving several compliments from friends and family, one person didn’t like her new hairdo and said something not so nice.
  • Kate’s thought:


(7) Discounting
  • Belittling oneself by rejecting positive comments and experiences. Down-playing one’s ability and efforts as not being important or meaningful.
  • Example: Steven was complimented by his boss for his good work on a project.
  • Steven’s thought:



(8) Mind reading
  • Making negative assumptions regarding other people’s thoughts and motives
  • Example: Aaron inquired about a transfer to a new department but was told by that department manager that the position was already filled.
  • Aaron’s thought:

Mind reading

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