10 Cognitive Distortions (Explained)


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Page last updated: 31/08/2022

10 Cognitive Distortions (Explained)

This blogspot will answer the question “what are the 10 cognitive distortions?. It will discuss the  various types of cognitive distortions and discuss them with examples.

What are the 10 cognitive distortions ?

The 10 cognitive distortions as discussed in cognitive psychology are as below:

All or nothing thinking / black and white thinking / polarized thinking Cognitive Distortion

The all or nothing thinking is often known as black or white thinking. It is termed as polarized thinking as this cognitive distortion divides the individuals thinking pattern between two poles.

Under the black and white thinking distortion an individual tends to fail to see the grey areas. They tend to perceive events and life episodes in terms of two extremes.

For example, an individual may believe under black and white cognitive distortion that he is either a true achiever or a total failure. Similarly someone might experience an event as fantastic or awful. 

The all or nothing thinking cognitive distortion is evident in Borderline personality disorder where the social life is majorly distorted due to love-hate polarized belief.

Overgeneralization Cognitive Distortion

The cognitive distortion of overgeneralization is symbolic to spreading butter from one corner of the bread slice to the whole slice. 

The overgeneralization cognitive distortion implies that  a single negative experience is generalized to all life patterns.

Under overgeneralization cognitive distortion, an individual draws a conclusion about one event and tends to apply that generously to all life experiences. 

An example of overgeneralization cognitive distortion is when a child from a broken family develops a schema that nobody loves. She continues that belief across all relations that distorts her personal and professional interpersonal relations.

The overgeneralization cognitive distortion is evident in the post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder.

Catastrophizing Cognitive Distortion

Catastrophizing cognitive distortion is also known as magnification cognitive distortion. Due to catastrophizing cognitive distortion, people tend to assume the worst in any uncertain scenario. They tend to magnify the impact of a small unresolved life event and get tensed about it.

The catastrophizing cognitive distortion is also known as binocular screwing as it tends to maximize the shortcomings and minimize any desirable qualities.  Due to catastrophizing cognitive distortion an ordinary stress provoking event might escalate into a peak anxious and stressful event that results in impaired functioning.

An example of catastrophizing cognitive distortion is a girl who burnt a dinner meal believing she is not a good wife and her husband will divorce her. 

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Personalization Cognitive Distortion

The personalization of cognitive distortion implies that an individual tends to take every negative experience of life personally. The person blames self for all the negatives that happen in life and self criticizes their existence.

In personalization cognitive distortion, a person fails to consider other factors responsible for an uncertain event. 

For example, a child might believe that it’s due to her/him that the family is not flourishing and thus tend to develop suicidal ideation.

Mind Reading (Jumping to Conclusions) Cognitive Distortion

The mind reading cognitive distortion is also known as jumping to conclusions. This cognitive distortion suggests that we know what people around us are thinking. As a result we tend to draw conclusions based upon our assumptions and negative interpretations.

Mind reading cognitive distortion also involves fortune telling. We tend to negatively evaluate the events and based upon the perception of events, we predict future events in a negative manner.

An example of mind reading cognitive distortion is a girlfriend who believes that she will not be able to survive if her boyfriend leaves her. Another example is of a daibetic patient who believes he will die due to diabetes as it is a lifelong disease.

Mental Filtering Cognitive Distortion

The mental filtering cognitive distortion is based on ignoring the positives and considering the negatives of any person, event or experience. Under mental filtering, individuals tend to exclusively focus on the negative aspects. 

Mental Filtering Cognitive Distortion can result in severe depressive features leading to suicidal thoughts

Disqualifying the Positives Cognitive Distortion

Disqualifying the positive cognitive distortion is a type of distorted thinking pattern where an individual tends to think in a biased way. They don’t take the accountability for any positive event that happens in their life. They describe positivity in life as an accident or sheer luck.

They firmly believe that the positives in their life do not count much, and consider them as mere strokes of luck.

An example of disqualifying the positive cognitive distortion is that an employee doesn’t feel good about receiving appraisal form the boss. He rather describes it as a matter of internal politics.

Should Statements Cognitive Distortion

The should statements cognitive distortion is also known as “musterbation”. It is a thinking pattern that tends to distort a person’s perception by making their beliefs about “should be done” , “must be done” and “ought to be done” very firm.

The “should” and “ought” statements are usually connected to negative thinking about self and others.  Such thoughts are rooted deep in the harsh superego that develops as a result of strict moral and religious values. 

The should statement cognitive distortion is further related to low self worth, distorted self-image and low self-esteem.

Emotional Reasoning Cognitive Distortion

The emotional reasoning cognitive distortion is based on using emotional reasoning for evaluating oneself or the events.

Under emotional reasoning cognitive distortion a person tends to believe every irrational and negative emotion as true and tends to draw negative inferences about self, others and the world. 

An example of emotional reasoning cognitive distortion is a way of thinking that is usually adapted by people suffering from mood disorders, anxiety disorders or depression.

Labelling Cognitive Distortion

Labeling cognitive distortion tends to involve stigmatizing a bad quality upon self or another individual to explain any uncertain event. People under this cognitive distortion tend to associate a bad characteristic or a negative description to another person or self. 

An example of Labeling Cognitive Distortion is that an individual feels himself as a jerk or a loser if he was unable to reach an office meeting due to bad weather conditions.


In this blogspot we focused on the 10 cognitive distortions. We tend to explain them and elaborate them with functional examples. We also highlighted how certain cognitive distortions lead to associated features of psychological disorders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):  10 Cognitive Distortion

What causes cognitive distortion?

Cognitive distortions result from faulty thinking patterns. They have their core at low self esteem and insecure sense of self. Negative experiences disturb the thinking patterns and lead to emotional reasonings. As a result of faulty thinking patterns, further anxious and distressing emotions surface that trigger more negative thought patterns.

What are the steps of cognitive restructuring ?

The steps of cognitive restructuring include : 
Calm Yourself. If you’re still upset or stressed by the thoughts you want to explore, you may find it hard to concentrate on using the tool.
 Identify the Situation. 
 Analyze Your Mood. 
Identify Automatic Thoughts. 
 Find Objective Supportive Evidence.

Is distorted thinking a mental illness?

Distorted thinking is not a mental illness in itself however it leads to various mental illnesses and associated features as it contaminates a person’s real view of self with perceived negativity about self, world and others.


  • https://www.verywellmind.com/ten-cognitive-distortions-identified-in-cbt-22412