Most of us make errors in thinking, now and then. It is natural to fall for thinking patterns not based on facts or reality. However, when they become a pattern and start to affect your day-to-day life, then they need to be addressed. Cognitive distortions are perceptions of self, the world and life around us that are not purely based on facts and are formed out of a negative thinking bias. Most of the time these patterns of thought are false or inaccurate and they have a tendency to cause psychological damage.
If these cognitive distortions are reinforced from time to time by events, then they can increase anxiety, deepen depression, cause complications in relationships and are not healthy for your mental well-being. Some studies are also looking at these distortions as one of the causes of psychological illnesses like anxiety disorders and depression.
Kinds of cognitive distortions
Cognitive distortions are usually irrational thoughts that can have a powerful influence on your emotions. Though they are often very subtle and hard to observe in our day-to-day lives. This also makes it hard to correct them from time to time. People can develop cognitive distortions as a response to protect themselves from adverse events. Some studies show that they could have been developed as an evolutionary survival method. Everybody experiences them to some extent but when they start to interfere in one’s life and cause emotional difficulties, then they must be addressed. The following are a few kinds-
Making it more or less than needed
Some people might exaggerate or minimize the intensity of an event to deal with the difficult emotions associated with them. For instance, downplaying one’s achievements but being overly critical of one’s mistakes.
Some people might see only the worst outcomes of a situation. They might assume the worst possible scenario without any objective evidence to support it. For instance, seeing a small injury as something life-threatening.
People can have a tendency to overgeneralize a past negative outcome. The person might think that what was negative once might always turn out to be negative in future scenarios. For instance, thinking that if you are bad at taking decisions, you might not be able to become a leader or take charge of a situation.
Magical thinking and fortune telling
It could be a belief that certain acts will influence unrelated situations. For instance, when encountering any negative situation, one could think of it as a consequence of some bad deed done in the past. Having a fatalistic view of life like foretelling a bad event could also mean that cognitive distortion is at play.
Some people can habitually think in extremes, without considering all other possible situations that might lie in between. For instance, on some days a person can think of themselves as super successful and on other days, that perception could change to viewing oneself as a total failure.