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.

All or nothing

Black-and-white thinking is another term for this type of thought process. People that think in this way tend to think exclusively in extremes. Good and terrible are two opposites. People who think this way only consider negative extremes. John, for instance, can view his fiancée as either the pure angel or the pure devil. The ability to think in the center ground will never be possible for someone with this perspective. If this way of thinking persists, it will result in mental breakdowns, ruined relationships, and unstable careers.


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.


Under any challenging circumstance, a person with this thought pattern will consider the worst-case scenario. For instance, when Rachel gets a headache, she starts to think about the tumor that causes cancer and begins to fear that she may eventually have the disease.


This kind of mentality will force the person to accept responsibility for all unfavorable outcomes, including those beyond their control. Joey, for instance, might believe that his dismissal from the onsite team was due to his inadequacy. In reality, it was because the project was over.

People hold themselves responsible for events and flaws that are beyond their control.

Mind reading

People in this type of thinking mode will consider what others think of them and will hold these assumptions of others to be true.

Mental filtering

Only the unpleasant events in their lives are seen and given attention by people with this flawed mental pattern. For instance, Peter exclusively thinks about the negative events in his life and believes it is meaningless and that he is unlucky. Anxiety, sadness, and a sense of hopelessness will result due to this mentality. Discounting the positive is also as same as mental filtering, but in this case, people usually consider the positive events to be luck or fluke. 


Another kind of thought pattern is labeling, in which the subject gives a bad term to themselves or others. For example, declaring oneself a failure or referring to other people as drunks. This kind of thinking can cause someone to underestimate himself or others.

Checklist of cognitive distortions

  • The best cognitive distortion exercise is mindfulness. Mindfulness helps to focus on the present moment and keeps you away from the negative thoughts that give you anxiety and depression. 
  • Take a brief moment to consider the reality. Focus on the here and now while contrasting it with the unfavorable thought.
  • Think about the thought and consider why it is occurring. Put yourself in the shoes of your close friend and say anything you would say to your friend to help them overcome the negative thought.