Cognitive distortions occur when a person only considers the cons of a scenario that’s happening to them. Young people subjected to a lot of life adversity are more prone to cognitive distortions. There are ten common cognitive distortions and thinking patterns. Continue reading to find out the checklist of cognitive distortions in detail.

List of 10 Cognitive Distortions

Certainly! Here are ten cognitive distortions with detailed explanations:

  1. All-or-Nothing Thinking (Black-and-White Thinking): This distortion involves viewing situations in extreme terms, where things are either perfect or a complete failure. It disregards any middle ground or shades of gray. For example, if a person receives one criticism at work, they may consider themselves a total failure rather than recognizing that feedback is a normal part of growth.
  2. Overgeneralization: This distortion occurs when a single negative event is viewed as a never-ending pattern of defeat. It involves making broad conclusions based on limited evidence. For instance, if someone fails a job interview, they might conclude that they are unemployable and will never find a job.
  3. Mental Filtering (Selective Attention): Mental filtering involves focusing exclusively on negative aspects of a situation while ignoring any positive aspects. It’s like looking at the world through a negative lens. For example, if someone receives numerous compliments and one criticism, they may dwell only on the negative feedback and discount the positive remarks.
  4. Discounting the Positive: This distortion involves downplaying or dismissing positive experiences or accomplishments. People who discount the positive often attribute their success to external factors like luck or believe they don’t deserve the positive outcomes. For instance, someone might believe that their promotion was just because they were in the right place at the right time and not because of their skills and abilities.
  5. Jumping to Conclusions: This distortion involves making assumptions or drawing conclusions without sufficient evidence. There are two common types of jumping to conclusions: mind-reading and fortune-telling. Mind-reading occurs when someone believes they know what others are thinking without any real evidence, while fortune-telling involves predicting negative outcomes without any reasonable basis. For instance, someone might believe that their friends are upset with them without any direct communication or evidence to support that belief.
  6. Magnification and Minimization (Catastrophizing and Minimizing): Magnification occurs when someone exaggerates the importance or negative impact of an event or situation. Catastrophizing is a common form of magnification where minor setbacks are blown out of proportion. On the other hand, minimization involves downplaying the significance of positive events or personal strengths. For example, someone might believe that a small mistake they made at work will result in immediate termination (magnification), while simultaneously dismissing their years of successful performance evaluations (minimization).
  7. Emotional Reasoning: This distortion involves believing that one’s feelings accurately reflect reality, without questioning or examining the evidence. For example, if someone feels anxious about an upcoming presentation, they might assume that the presentation will undoubtedly go poorly, despite having no objective evidence to support that belief.
  8. Personalization: Personalization occurs when someone takes excessive responsibility for external events or situations that are beyond their control. They believe that they are the cause of negative outcomes, even when it’s unlikely or unreasonable. For instance, if a friend cancels plans, someone engaging in personalization might blame themselves and believe that their friend doesn’t want to spend time with them because of something they did.
  9. Should Statements: This distortion involves using words like “should,” “must,” or “ought to” to impose rigid expectations on oneself or others. It often leads to feelings of guilt, shame, or frustration. For example, someone might think, “I should always be perfect and never make mistakes,” setting impossibly high standards for themselves.
  10. Labeling: Labeling refers to the tendency to assign global and negative labels to oneself or others based on specific behaviors or traits. It involves overgeneralizing and defining oneself or others solely based on a particular action.


This kind of thought pattern causes the person to perceive every circumstance unfavorably. They will extrapolate the same unfavorable consequences to all other situations in life. For instance, William believes he is not excellent at giving speeches because he made a mistake once when orating. This is an overgeneralization, where an individual’s self-confidence and self-esteem get impacted and set just by one negative event. Such a thought will prevent any person from realizing their true potential.

What causes Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are often caused by automatic, habitual patterns of thinking that develop over time, often as a result of early life experiences or learned behaviors. Some common causes of cognitive distortions include:

  1. Negative early life experiences: Traumatic or negative experiences in childhood or adolescence, such as abuse, neglect, or bullying, can lead to the development of cognitive distortions.
  2. Learned behaviors: Cognitive distortions can be learned from others, such as parents, teachers, or peers, who model these thinking patterns.
  3. Cognitive biases: Our brains are wired to process information in certain ways, which can lead to cognitive biases that contribute to the development of cognitive distortions.
  4. Stress and anxiety: Chronic stress or anxiety can interfere with our ability to think clearly, leading to distorted thinking patterns.
  5. Depression: Depression can also contribute to the development of cognitive distortions, as negative thoughts and beliefs about oneself and the world become more pervasive.
  6. Genetics: Some research suggests that certain genetic factors may be associated with the development of cognitive distortions.

It’s important to note that cognitive distortions are common and often automatic patterns of thinking that everyone experiences from time to time.

What is Distorted Thinking

Distorted thinking refers to patterns of thought that are irrational, biased, or inaccurate, leading to a distorted perception of reality. It involves cognitive distortions or cognitive biases that can negatively impact one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. These distorted thoughts often involve making generalizations, jumping to conclusions, focusing on the negative, discounting the positive, or holding rigid and unrealistic beliefs.

Distorted thinking can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and hinder problem-solving abilities. Recognizing and challenging distorted thinking patterns is an important part of cognitive-behavioral therapy and cognitive restructuring techniques to promote healthier and more accurate thinking.

How to Overcome Cognitive Distortions

How to Overcome Cognitive Distortions
How to Overcome Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions involve recognizing and challenging these irrational thought patterns. Here are some strategies to help overcome cognitive distortions:

  1. Awareness: Start by becoming aware of your thoughts and identifying the cognitive distortions you tend to engage in. Pay attention to the patterns of negative or unhelpful thinking that arise in different situations.
  2. Thought Record: Keep a thought record or journal to track your thoughts and emotions. Write down the situation, your automatic thoughts, the associated emotions, and any cognitive distortions present. This helps you become more aware of your thinking patterns and provides a basis for challenging them.
  3. Question the Evidence: Examine the evidence supporting your automatic thoughts. Are there any facts or evidence that contradict or challenge your initial assumptions? Look for alternative explanations or interpretations of the situation.
  4. Alternative Perspectives: Consider alternative perspectives or viewpoints. How would someone else interpret the same situation? What advice would you give to a friend in a similar situation? This helps broaden your understanding and challenge the narrow thinking associated with cognitive distortions.
  5. Reality Testing: Test the validity of your thoughts by seeking objective evidence or feedback from others. Consult trusted friends, family members, or professionals who can provide a more balanced perspective on the situation.
  6. Cognitive Restructuring: Challenge and reframe your distorted thoughts using cognitive restructuring techniques. Replace negative or distorted thoughts with more rational, realistic, and positive alternatives. Focus on evidence-based thinking rather than assumptions or beliefs.
  7. Behavioral Activation: Engage in activities that promote positive emotions and challenge negative thinking. Actively participate in hobbies, exercise, socialize, and practice self-care. Shifting your focus to positive experiences can counteract cognitive distortions.
  8. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practice mindfulness and meditation techniques to increase awareness of the present moment and cultivate a non-judgmental attitude towards your thoughts. This helps create distance from distorted thinking and promotes a more balanced perspective.
  9. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Consider working with a trained therapist who specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT is a highly effective treatment approach that targets cognitive distortions and helps individuals develop healthier thinking patterns.
  10. Self-Compassion: Be kind and compassionate towards yourself. Recognize that everyone has distorted thinking at times, and it does not define your worth or abilities. Treat yourself with understanding and self-care as you work towards challenging and overcoming cognitive distortions.

Remember that overcoming cognitive distortions takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way. With consistent effort and a willingness to challenge your thoughts, you can develop healthier thinking patterns and improve your overall well-being.