Thinking Errors Commonly Associated With Anxiety Trauma

A Sampling of Thinking Errors Commonly Associated with Anxiety and Trauma
  1. DICHOTOMIZING: Viewing things in either/or categories, or assuming there are only two possible answers. a. All-or-Nothing Thinking: “It’s either going to happen as I want or it’s not going to happen.”
    b. Perfectionism: “If its not perfect, its all wrong.” Or “If I’m not perfect, I’m a loser.”
  2. OVERGENERALIZATION: Taking a single event or characteristic and turning it into a general pattern.
a. Labeling: An extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error “I forgot to pay the phone bill,” you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” Or when someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, rather than telling yourself (or him) “I don’t like it when he (you) forget to say thank you,” you attach a negative label to him: “He is (you are) an insensitive jerk.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded. Labeling usually involves turning a behavior into a negative character trait.
  1. NEGATIVE FILTERING: Picking out a single negative detail and dwelling on it exclusively so that eventually your whole vision of all reality becomes gloomy and negative.
  2. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: Rejecting positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or another. In this way you maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by our everyday experiences.
  3. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: Making a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts, or less facts, that convincingly support your conclusion over other conclusions.
    1. Mind Reading: Arbitrarily concluding that someone is reacting negatively to you, without bothering to check to find out if you are correct.
    2. The Fortune Teller Error: Anticipating that things will turn out badly, and “feeling” convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
    3. Confusing Possibility with Probability: Thinking something that is merely possible (e.g. It can happen) is really probable (e.g. It will happen, or is likely to happen), or more probable than the evidence would suggest.
  1. MAGNIFICATION OR MINIMIZATION OF EVENTS OR FACTS: Exaggerating or reducing the importance of events or facts in order to hang on to a negative interpretation of an event.
    a. Catastrophizing: Magnifying a simple negative event into an all-encompassing disaster.
    b. Blowing Things Out of Proportion: Thinking that situations or things are insufferable or catastrophic, when in actuality they are not.
  2. EMOTIONAL REASONING: Assuming that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are. Or coming to conclusions and making decisions, consciously or unconsciously, based on emotions rather than facts, evidence, and logic. “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  3. MORALIZING: Trying to motivate yourself or others with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts,” as if people have to feel bad before they will do anything. “Must, ought, have to, need to, and supposed to” are also moralizations. The emotional consequence of moralizing about yourself is guilt. When you moralize about others you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
  4. PERSONALIZATION: Seeing yourself as being the cause of some negative external event, or being at the center of some event when in fact the event just happened when you were around, and you were not the cause, or only had some minor role in causing it.

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