Challenging Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are negative thought patterns that often lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. Distortions are typically conclusions that we jump to without considering all of the available evidence. They can be irrational and distressing.

There are many types of cognitive distortions, including:

All-or-Nothing Thinking

Also known as black-or-white thinking, all-or-nothing thinking is when an individual thinks about themselves and their behaviors in absolutes or extremes. Some examples of all-or-nothing thinking include thinking that you are a failure when you do not do as well as you wanted on an exam, or feeling like a failure when you miss one workout. Another example of all-or-nothing thinking is thinking “I am never good enough,” or “I always mess things up.” after making a small mistake.


Catastrophizing is when our minds jump to the worst case scenario. Examples include, “if I don’t pass this exam, I will never graduate and my entire future will be ruined,” or “if this relationship doesn’t work out, I will never find love or happiness.”

Emotional Reasoning

This is when we interpret our emotions as truth or fact. An example of this might be, “I feel like no one likes me; therefore, I must be unlikable,” or “I feel worthless, so I must be worthless.”

For a list of different types of cognitive distortions, click here.

Recognizing these cognitive distortions is a great first step towards changing them. It can be hard to stop these thought patterns when your mind has become so accustomed to them. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to challenge these thoughts when they arise:

  1. What is the evidence FOR this thought?
  2. What is the evidence AGAINST this thought?
  3. Am I drawing conclusions without enough
  4. What would I say to a friend who was having this
  5. Am I making judgments based on feelings rather
    than facts?
  6. Am I making assumptions about other peoples’
    thoughts and feelings?
  7. Is there an alternative way to think about this
  8. Will this matter a year from now? Five years
    from now? 10 years from now?

Do any of the cognitive distortions above resonate with you? If so, how do you challenge them?

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