Thinking Errors

Thinking errors, commonly known as cognitive distortions, are irrational beliefs that contribute to uncomfortable emotions and unwanted behavior.

Below are some examples of Thinking Errors.  Paying attention to thinking errors can offer the opportunity to be aware of this pattern and change the way we respond in our actions and reactions to situations we face.

Ignoring the Good. You pay more attention to bad things and ignore when something good happens.


• You get one answer wrong on a long test, and all you can think about is the mistake.

• You score two goals in your soccer game, but all you can think about is the shot you missed.

Blowing Things Up. Making a really big deal out of something small, or making something a little bit bad seem like the worst thing ever.


• You get a stain on your new shoes and you think they’re ruined and can’t be worn anymore.

• “I’m not allowed to see my friends on Friday. My life is horrible!”

Fortune Telling. Thinking you know what will happen in the future and that it will be bad.


• “I know if I ask her to the dance she’s going to say no.” • “I bet no one will come to my birthday party.”

Mind Reading. Believing you know what someone else is thinking, or why they are doing something, without having enough information.


• “People are looking at me. They probably think my shirt is ugly.” • “Emma didn’t invite me to her party. I bet she thinks I’m weird.”

Negative Labeling. Having a negative belief about yourself and thinking it applies to everything you do.


• “I’m a loser so my artwork stinks.”
• “I’m so stupid. Everything I say is dumb.”

Setting the Bar Too High. Thinking that you must be perfect in everything you do, otherwise, you’re no good.


• “If I don’t get an A on every test, I’m not smart.”
• “I have to win every tennis match I play, otherwise I’m worthless.”

Self-blaming. Blaming yourself for anything that goes wrong around you, even if you had nothing to do with it.


• When your basketball team loses a game, you think it’s entirely your fault.

• “Alicia is sad today. I probably did something to upset her.”

Feelings as Facts. Believing that if you feel something, it must be true.


• “I feel ugly, so I must be ugly.”
• “I feel like I’m a bad friend, so I must be a bad friend.”

“Should” Statements. Believing things have to be a certain way.


• “People should always be nice to me.”
• “I should always be happy. I should never be sad.”

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