Identifying cognitive errors can help you improve your mood.
In CBT, your thoughts are approached from an objective perspective to enable you to feel more empowered and in control of your moods. Because thoughts are “just thoughts” and not facts, in therapy they are dealt as abstract and subjective entities that may not necessarily reflect the truth.
Here are the 11 most common cognitive errors:
1- All-or-nothing thinking: you see the world in black and white and ignore numerous shades of grey.
Ex.: If this project doesn’t go well, it will be a total disaster.
2- Catastrophizing: you think the worst is somehow bound to happen, again ignoring variations as the possibility of positive outcomes.
Ex.: If I don’t get this job, I won’t be able to recover financially.
3- Disqualifying or discounting the positive: you overlook or dismiss the importance of your achievements as well as small victories as if they were to be expected and not celebrated or taken into consideration.
Ex. So what if I was promoted? It happens to people my age.
4- Emotional reasoning: your evaluations are based on your personal feelings and not on objective reason.
Ex.: If I feel incompetent, it means I can’t do anything right.
5- Labelling: you use a term of negative connotation to describe yourself, a situation or other people as if it were a faithful representation of the whole picture, without proof or analysis of any further considerations.
Ex.: I am an idiot, she’s a gold-digger and our marriage is a farce.
6- Magnification/minimisation: you judge yourself, others and the world around you emphasising the negative and reducing or ignoring the value of anything positive.
Ex.: Getting a promotion is what is expected of someone my age, while doing the same job for years means I am incompetent.
7- Mental filter: you focus on a negative aspect to formulate judgement.
Ex.: Dinner was mediocre, because my chocolate mousse didn’t rise.
8- Mind reading: you think you know what goes through other people’s minds without talking to them first.
Ex.: She thinks I am unsuitable to lead the team.
9- Overgeneralization: your interpretation is based on a broad and simplistic evaluation that exceeds the scope of the matter.
Ex.: (Because she is not interested in me) I will never date anyone I like.
10- Personalisation: you think other people’s negative behaviours are related to you.
Ex.: He left the pub early because he finds me boring.
11- “Should” and “must” statements: you have prescribed and inflexible views of yourself and others and exaggerate the importance of your own expectations.
Ex.: I’ve made a silly comment in today’s meeting. I should never open my mouth without being sure of what I am about to say.
Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behaviour therapy, basics and beyond (2nd ed.) New York, NY: The Guilford Press.