Distorted Thinking and Depression

I know that I often experience distorted thinking which correlates strongly with depression.  This article does a good job of explaining disordered thinking. It also makes suggestions as to ways to correct or redirect thinking.  (OK, I’ve fixed the font on this at least 6 times and it just keeps reverting back.  Arrghhh!!!!)

It’s The Thought That Matters: Depression’s Distorted ThinkingPosted on Aug 25, 2014 Copyright, Daniel T. Lukasik, 2014



Depression expert, Aaron Beck, Ph.D. developed a theory about cognitive distortions and depression.  Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true.  These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions – telling themselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep them feeling bad about themselves.

All-Or-Nothing Thinking: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.This hearkens back to perfectionism which I am working on ~jsn

Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never- ending pattern of defeat.  “I’ll never be able to do this right, so I’ll quit trying .” ~jsn

Mental Filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water. I sometimes (OK, OFTEN!) focus on the 10% or less that’s wrong instead of the 90+% that’s right… ~jsn

Disqualifying the Positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

Jumping to Conclusions: You make a negative interpretation though there are no definite facts that convincingly support conclusion. Mind reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and you don’t bother to check this out. The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.

Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.” I am good at catastrophizing, but at least I usually recognize when I am doing this now.  ~jsn

Emotional Reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.” Definitely working on this one ~jsn

Should Statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt.  Boy am I a SHOULDER!!!!! ~jsn

Labeling and Mislabeling: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.”  I think mostly lately thought of myself as a burden, a bad daughter, a bad sister and a bad friend.  I feel like I’ve let so many people down in various ways (most often cancelling or bailing on something) due to my illnesses. ~jsn

Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.

Self-Worth: You make an arbitrary decision that in order to accept yourself as worthy, okay, or to simply, feel good about yourself, you have to perform in a certain way; usually most or all the time


Okay, then.  What’s the antidote?  How can you possibly change the way you view yourself and the world?  Here are some ideas:

1. Identify Cognitive Distortions: We need to create a list of our troublesome thoughts and examine them later for matches with a list of cognitive distortions. An examination of our cognitive distortions allows us to see which distortions we prefer. Additionally, this process will allow us to think about our problem or predicament in more natural and realistic ways.

2. Examine the Evidence: A thorough examination of an experience allows us to identify the basis for our distorted thoughts. If we are quite self-critical, then, we should identify a number of experiences and situations where we had success. Yes, I “should” bahahaha ~jsn

3. Double Standard Method: An alternative to “self-talk” that is harsh and demeaning is to talk to ourselves in the same compassionate and caring way that we would talk with a friend in a similar situation. This is a good one! I would never judge family, friends or even strangers the way I judge myself… ~jsn

4. Thinking in Shades of Gray: Instead of thinking about our problem or predicament in an either-or polarity, evaluate things on a scale of 0-100. When a plan or goal is not fully realized, think about and evaluate the experience as a partial success, again, on a scale of 0-100. I like the rating scale and also visualize the many actual shades of gray in between black and white on a color chart. Or I think about all the different shades of gray in my colored pencils.  ~jsn

5. Survey Method: We need to seek the opinions of others regarding whether our thoughts and attitudes are realistic. If we believe that our anxiety about an upcoming event is unwarranted, check with a few trusted friends or relatives. Often, I think I have “shamed” myself so much that I’m reluctant to even talk about it. Or I just feel stupid even asking. ~jsn

6. Definitions: What does it mean to define ourselves as “inferior,” “a loser,” “a fool,” or “abnormal.” An examination of these and other global labels likely will reveal that they more closely represent specific behaviors, or an identifiable behavior pattern instead of the total person. Remember the adage of dislike the behavior not disliking the person (or in this case myself) ~jsn

7. Re-attribution: Often, we automatically blame ourselves for the problems and predicaments we experience. Identify external factors and other individuals that contributed to the problem. Regardless of the degree of responsibility we assume, our energy is best utilized in the pursuit of resolutions to problems or identifying ways to cope with predicaments.

8. Cost-Benefit Analysis: It is helpful to list the advantages and disadvantages of feelings, thoughts, or behaviors. A cost-benefit analysis will help us to ascertain what we are gaining from feeling bad, distorted thinking, and inappropriate behavior. I also try to think about how big of a deal it TRULY is. How serious is whatever happened? Or as Dr. Brian King said in his seminar on resiliency lst week, “Did anything even actually happen?”  Or the phrase “Is anyone bleeding?” How much will this matter in a day, week month?? ~jsn

Copyright, Daniel T. Lukasik, 2014

Read more at http://www.lawyerswithdepression.com/articles/thought-matters-depressions-distorted-thinking/#qymo1c…

This is an EXCELLENT summary of distorted thinking….  http://media.psychology.tools/worksheets/english_us/unhelpful_thinking_styles_en-us.pdf

Happy thinking and TGIF… It’s way past my bedtime. My sleep schedule has been SERIOUSLY messed up for the past couple weeks.



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