Thinking processes known as cognitive distortions reinforce one’s unfavorable biases. dependable source They were originally discussed by mental health specialists in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
According to 2017 Trusted Source research, people may acquire cognitive distortions as a coping mechanism for unfavorable life circumstances. One or more cognitive distortions are more likely to develop the longer and more severe those unfavorable events are. It’s even possible that cognitive distortions were established by humans as a means of evolutionary survival.
In other words, being under stress may prompt you to change the way you think to help ensure your immediate survival. But these ideas frequently aren’t sensible or long-lasting.
According to research, a variety of mental health problems may involve cognitive distortions. These include anxiety, dysphoria, and sadness. However, cognitive distortions alone are not thought to be a mental disease. A cognitive distortion is not included as a mental health disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. It’s normal to have cognitive distortions occasionally. However, if you experience them frequently, you might want to get assistance from a mental health expert.
Although it would appear that two things I have accomplished—in very different fields—would need wholly separate skill sets, I have found an unanticipated commonality. The first is kicking a prescription drug addiction, and the second is being certified as a health and fitness coach. Concern for what is going well in my life and for those around me, mindfulness and presence in the present, engaging in healthy habits such as exercise, good nutrition, and, ideally, sleep (not my specialty! ), connection with others, open and honest communication and empathy, including self-empathy are some of the skills and practices that these two experiences have in common.
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but you thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking.”
– Eckhart Tolle
Learning how to identify and neutralize the cognitive distortions that we all utilize is also essential to achieving the calm and focus needed to be a health coach and to overcome an addiction. Internal mental filters or biases known as cognitive distortions amplify our suffering, feed our worry, and reinforce our negative self-perceptions. Many pieces of information are constantly being processed by our brains. In order to cope with this, our brains look for ways to reduce the workload on our minds. These shortcuts can be beneficial at times, but they can also be detrimental in other situations, such as when used in conjunction with harmful cognitive filters.
Why We Think Ineffectively And How To Stop
Ruminative thinking, or the persistent looping of unfavorable thoughts in our minds, is a feature of many mental conditions. The misery and isolation that many individuals experience is also a result of this way of thinking. To ruminate ineffectively, one most definitely need not have a mental diagnosis. Most of us do this to some level as a result of our worries about certain circumstances and difficulties. Rumination can be seen as a persistent effort to find understanding or answers to issues that are troubling us. Unfortunately, when these cognitive filters are present, it can turn into an unproductive sort of brooding that worsens depression. Whatever living situations we find ourselves in become that much more stressful and anxiety-provoking due to these unhelpful filters.
What Sort Of Cognitive Distortions Are Harmful?
The following are the primary cognitive distortions (some of which overlap):
- Black-and-white (or all-or-nothing) (or all-or-nothing) I always feel like I have nothing interesting to say.
- I’m going to hear from the doctor that I have cancer, therefore I’m assuming the worst (or mind-reading).
- Personalization: I was the reason why our team lost.
- I should be losing weight, and I must be (self-critical rhetoric that puts a lot of pressure on you).
- Mental filter: I am bad at getting enough sleep. This is an example of a mental filter that emphasizes the negative, such as one part of a health change that you didn’t perform well.
- Oversimplifying: I won’t ever find a companion.
- It was only one healthy meal, magnified and minimized (the bad magnified, the positive minimized).
- My cholesterol will be quite high, according to the future.
- Comparison (the act of comparing one aspect of your performance or circumstance to another, which you are unaware of, in an effort to cast a negative light on you): My employees are all happy than I am.
- Catastrophizing (a kind of fortune-telling and all-or-nothing thinking; exaggerating a situation): I’m going to die soon because of this spot on my skin, which is definitely skin cancer.
- Simply put, I’m not a healthy person.
- Negating the affirmative: I gave a good response, but it was a fortunate guess.
Emotional Thinking Without Taking The Facts Into Account
Last but not least, a lot of us participate in emotional reasoning, which is a process when, in the absence of any data to back these bad sensations, our negative feelings about ourselves guide our thinking as if they were fact-based. In other words, regardless of any knowledge to the contrary, your sentiments and emotions about a situation become your true picture of the circumstance. Many of the other cognitive filters, such as catastrophizing and rejecting the positive, are frequently used by emotional reasoning to support it. Examples of this may be by considering:
- Even if you’re losing weight, I’m a whale.
- Even if you obtain some decent scores, I’m a terrible student.
- Even though there is no proof, my boyfriend is having an affair (jealousy is defining your reality).
- Even if you have pals, nobody likes me (loneliness informs your thinking).
How May Cognitive Distortions Be Contested And Altered?
Being conscious of our cognitive distortions and paying attention to how we are framing things to ourselves is a huge step toward overcoming them. As crucial as excellent physical habits are good mental ones. We almost surely will feel less isolated and anxious if we frame things in a healthy, positive way. This doesn’t imply that we disregard issues, difficulties, or emotions; rather, it implies that we approach them with a positive outlook rather than allowing negative emotions and ideas to make us feel more anxious.
I’ve learned to tell myself that whatever arises, I’ll handle it as best I can since I used to be an expert at becoming confused by all these filters. I make an effort to have faith in my future self to successfully handle any challenges life may present. As a result, there is no need to be concerned in the present about prospective issues in the future. If I worry about what could occur, I will have to deal with a lot of unproductive anxiety in addition to any potential challenges that may or may not arise in the future.
For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic, they are merely cutting off a random automobile, not you, because they have no idea who you are, a smart therapist once informed me. Therefore, there is no justification for doing so. Personalizing things like this just serves to aggravate you. If you don’t take it personally, it becomes “people should drive more cautiously” instead of “jerk cut me off.”
I also refrain from overly pessimistic thoughts (though this can be difficult when thinking about all that is happening in our world, including climate change). I make a special effort to avoid using emotional reasoning. None of us are immune to emotions that could impair our ability to reason. Everybody reverts to their old ways and makes mistakes. Not perfection, but growth, is our goal.
You will be more successful, more at ease, and better able to enjoy your relationships if you can liberate yourself from these harmful cognitive filters.