Thought Distortions: All or Nothing Thinking

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Thought Distortions: All or Nothing Thinking

When a traumatic event happens people tend to think in extremes, but others think in these extremes daily without any real or inherent danger present. Thought distortions, also known as cognitive distortions, are thoughts that come from negativity and self-doubt; they are exaggerated and irrational. Many mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety, feed into this way of thinking.

Everyone can recognize themselves in one or more thought distortion, and realizing you are falling into one of the categories is important in being able to shift away from a harmful thought pattern. If you have a mental health issue, it can be more difficult to make this shift, and you may need cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help train your brain to a new way of thinking.

The first Thought Distortion, we will be addressing in this series is All or Nothing Thinking, also known as “black-and-white thinking.” If you fall into this thought distortion, you may use words like “always,” “every,” or “never.” You may think things like:

“If I’m not perfect, I have failed.”

“Either I do it right or not at all.”

“My life is difficult right now, so it will always be this way.”

“My partner is insensitive today, so he or she does not love me.”

None of these are probably true, but they are accepted as the truth. The more a person thinks in extremes be it “completely disastrous” or “absolutely wonderful,” the more likely they are to become depressed, because this kind of thinking stimulates an extreme emotional response, be it negative or positive. You need to be able to think in shades of gray and not just extremes to avoid All or Nothing Thinking.

All or Nothing Thinking is the first in our Thought Distortions series.