The 8 types of cognitive distortions

We have long known that it is not the events themselves that trigger our emotions, but our interpretation of them. In other words, how we perceive them and how we interpret them.

Behind every feeling of sadness, anger, fear or anguish can be a thought that hides or disguises reality. This is why in certain disorders such as depression, anxiety or phobias, cognitive distortions play a major role.

In this article we will explain what are the most common types of cognitive distortions and what each of them consists of.

Brain deception and cognitive distortions

Therefore, it is vitally important to stop and reflect on the validity of these thoughts, as we might be suffering from unreal causes.

The human mind is very complex and sometimes we get lost in it and are unable to differentiate the fictitious reality.

What are cognitive distortions and how do they affect us?

Cognitive distortions are misinterpretations of reality which lead the individual to perceive the world in a non-objective and dysfunctional way. They come in the form of automatic thoughts and trigger negative emotions that lead to unwanted or inappropriate behavior.

In this way, a loop is generated, as these dysfunctional behaviors end up reinforcing the cognitive patterns that generated them, so that the momentum is maintained or even intensified.

Characteristics of cognitive distortions

  • They are often expressed in terms of categorical imperatives: “should”, “should”, “should …”.
  • They are experienced as spontaneous, they suddenly appear in the mind without any apparent trigger.
  • These are short, specific, and unobtrusive messages and often come in the form of a visual image.
  • They tend to be dramatic and catastrophic.
  • They are difficult to deflect.
  • They are learned.

Types of cognitive distortions and examples

There are a lot of cognitive mistakes that people fall into over and over again. Below, I’ll describe a few of the more common ones, with an example to make it easier to understand.

These are the types of cognitive distortions.

1. Excessive generalization

Following an isolated case generalize a conclusion valid for all. Example: “John didn’t write to me, people always forget about me.”

2. Selective abstraction

Focus on the “tunnel view” mode only on certain aspects, generally negative and disturbing, Of a circumstance or of a person, excluding the rest of its characteristics and ignoring the positive of the same. Example: “I spent time with salt in macaroni, I’m a horrible cook.”

3. Arbitrary inference

Make judgments or draw conclusions quickly or impulsively, Based on incomplete or erroneous information. Example: “He tells me not to be harsh, women are like that.”

4. Confirmation bias

Tendency to interpret reality in a way that confirms our previous beliefs. Example: “I was wrong, if I already knew I wasn’t good at it.”

5. Divine reward error

Thinking that in the future problems will improve on their own without taking a proactive stance. Example: “My head is exploding, but I am calm because the weather puts everyone in their place.”

6. Read the thought

Take responsibility for the intentions or knowledge of others. Example: “They look at me because I am making fun of.”

7. Fortune Teller Error

Believe in knowing what the future will look like and act on it. Example: “I’m not going to this job interview because I know they won’t hire me.”

8. Personalization

Suppose everything that people do or say has to do directly with oneself. Example: “Marta has a bad face, she must be mad at me.”

How to put an end to cognitive distortions?

Cognitive distortions can change once they are detected.

There are techniques in psychotherapy that directly affect this type of distortion, And are the so-called cognitive restructuring techniques. In them, the professional helps the individual to identify the mistaken beliefs he has developed about the world, and subsequently the two work together to develop alternative thoughts and ways of interpreting situations.

like that, the psychologist helps the person learn to question the validity of their own cognitive patterns replace them already with more realistic alternative thoughts, which will make you feel more positive emotions and therefore will be favorable when it comes to having more useful behaviors to live in greater harmony with your environment.

Bibliographical references:

  • Gadenne, V. (2006). Philosophy of psychology. Spain: Herder.
  • Jung, Carl Gustav (2003). Symbolism of the spirit. Mexico, DF: Fund for Economic Culture.
  • Triglia, Adrián; Regader, Bertrand; García-Allen, Jonathan (2016). Psychologically speaking. Paidós.
  • Vidales, Ismael (2004). General psychology. Mexico: Limousin.

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