Challenging Irrational Thoughts (+5 Irrational Thinking Patterns)

In this article, we will look at how to challenge irrational thoughts. This article explores ways to challenge irrational or rigid thinking patterns and it also looks at 5 irrational thinking patterns and how to overcome each of them.

Challenging Irrational Thoughts 

Rigid, irrational thought patterns are one of the characteristics of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Clients frequently do not recognise their thinking is rigid or unreasonable, so these patterns are repeated again and again until somebody takes notice of them and makes them understand that their views are irrational and nonsensical.

Counselors work with clients who have rigid and irrational thought patterns to aid them in establishing more adaptable and realistic lenses by which to perceive the world. This procedure takes a lot of time and work, and many people find it frustrating. If you think you might have a problem with irrational patterns of thinking, here are some tips to help you become more open and rational.

Identify Irrational Thinking Talk To A Therapist

You might ask yourself a series of questions to see whether you have any irrational thinking patterns. 

  • “Is this thought black and white?” 
  • “Is this all-or-nothing thinking?” 
  • “Is this thinking either or?”

“I’m dropping out in case I don’t pass that test,” or “If my friends won’t hang out with me later this evening, it shows they don’t really like me.” Words like “always,” “must,” and “should” can aid in the detection of rigid and irrational thinking patterns.

You can start questioning your irrational thinking patterns after you become conscious of them.

Work to change your “black and white” thinking to “grey” thinking. “If my friends can’t hang out with me later this evening, it proves they don’t really like me,” as in is replaced with “I’ll be upset if my friends can’t hang out with me later this evening, but I realise they still like me because they called me today and asked to hang out this weekend.”

Use actual experience as proof to counter your irrational thinking when developing more flexible thinking patterns.

Talk To A Therapist

Since irrational thought patterns are frequently so deeply embedded, it can be hard to notice and change them on your own. Talking with a therapist can assist you in shedding irrational thoughts and developing more reasonable and flexible patterns of thinking.

A therapist can assist you in identifying your irrational and inflexible thoughts, which you may then use as proof to contradict. Contact a therapist if you want to engage with them to create a healthier and much more adaptable line of thought.

5 Irrational Thinking Patterns

Here are the 5 irrational thinking patterns that might be clouding your mind and making your life harder than it should be:

  • Overgeneralizing
  • Personalization
  • Should statements
  • Discounting the positive
  • Black and white thinking


You derive general principles from particular events and apply them to circumstances that are different. Instead of being constructive, your regulations are frequently harmful. When you don’t secure the job you desire, for instance, you might assume, “People really do not like me — and I’m going to die lonely, also.”

Keep repeating yourself, “Now this outcome is what it is – one outcome,” if you feel yourself carelessly equating one past consequence to another predicted or impending situation.


You view yourself as the cause of a terrible incident for which you were most likely not guilty (or not the only one). Self blame for others’ losses or daily accidents, as well as linking external events to oneself when there is no reason for it, can have a detrimental effect on one’s everyday life and self-perception. This can take on many forms.

Let’s assume you make an online hotel reservation for you and your buddies, but your name was not on the list when you arrived at the venue. You blame yourself and claim, “It’s all my mistake.” Or, in a more extraordinary scenario, you arrange a beach trip for you and your partner, it rains for the majority of the weekend, and you criticize yourself and claim, “It’s my mistake because I hoped for nice weather too much.”

Personalizing appeals to our innate desire to be viewed as responsible and efficient, yet it causes extra and unwarranted pressure and stress to our lives. Consider how you might have exacerbated the problem if you’re eager to take accountability for anything that was out of your hands.

In the instance of the missed reservation, double-check that you selected the correct time and date, and that you didn’t really miss the restaurant’s email confirmation or SMS. 

Assess some of the other elements that could have led to the issue like the booking software, the hotel’s computer, as well as who else could be to blame.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Should statements

Your inner monologue is littered with phrases like “should,” “should have,” and “must.” These words harm, and using them too often can lead to frustration and rage. Let’s imagine your supervisor tells you that she needs a proposal from you by Monday. “I should finish this project by Friday or else, I’m a lazy idiot,” you convince yourself.

You’ve probably heard the expression “Stop Shoulding” on yourself.” “Should,” “ought to,” and “must” are constraining words that can make you feel that you have limited choices and have unrealistic expectations. 

Shifting the language you are using in your self-talk is the first step toward trying to expand your sense of autonomy. Replace the words “should,” “ought to,” and “must” with “can,” “prefer to,” or “make the choice to.”

Discounting the positive

You discount positive statements or events by claiming that they “don’t matter” for some reason. Your employer, for example, compliments you in front of your coworkers. Whenever someone subsequently brings it up, you say, “She only said that because she couldn’t ignore me because I was sitting right in front of her.”

You are incorrectly perpetuating negative thoughts about yourself and your surroundings everytime you disregard the positive. If you have trouble accepting praises or appreciation, begin by stating a simple, honest “Thank you” or “I appreciate it.” After that, spend some time imagining what your life would be like if you truly believed those phrases.

Black and white thinking

You view people and circumstances in black and white (a coworker is either wonderful or boring, a party is either “the greatest” or “the worst”), ignoring complexity. In truth, our lives are a tapestry of shades of grey.

Keep track of how often you do this. For instance, you can find yourself thinking, “On the basketball court, I have to be precise or I’ll appear like an idiot.” Question this pattern by imagining a third choice that lies between the two — you may think, “I love to play basketball, so I’ll just put myself out there and have fun.” 

Take it one step further by brainstorming a few more alternatives. Considering one alternative can help you break the pattern, and coming up with a few more improves your ability to notice the intricacies in any scenario.

BetterHelp: A Better Alternative

Those who are seeking therapy online may also be interested in BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers plenty of formats of therapy, ranging from live chats, live audio sessions and live video sessions. In addition, unlimited messaging through texting, audio messages and even video messages are available here.

BetterHelp also offers couples therapy and therapy for teenagers in its platform. Furthermore, group sessions can also be found in this platform, covering more than twenty different topics related to mental health and mental illness. The pricing of BetterHelp is also pretty cost-effective, especially considering the fact that the platform offers financial aid to most users.


In this article, we looked at how to challenge irrational thoughts. This article explored ways to challenge irrational or rigid thinking patterns and it also looks at 5 irrational thinking patterns and how to overcome each of them.

Frequently Asked Questions: Challenging Irrational Thoughts

Which therapy can be used to reduce irrational thinking?

CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) is a type of therapy that helps people think in a more healthy way. It focuses on cognition (thinking) and action (doing) (behavioral). To practice CBT, many people actually work with a therapist or counsellor. You can, however, learn to think in a healthy way on your own.

Can anxiety make you have irrational thoughts?

Irrational thinking can manifest itself in a variety of ways. It’s deceptive like that. Even though irrational thinking can be linked to a variety of mental disorders, it is most commonly related with anxiety.

What is Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia?

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is among the longest words in the English language, and it’s also the term for a fear of lengthy words, which is ironic. Another name for this phobia is sesquipedalophobia.

Can a person die from loneliness?

This mental health issue has been linked to poor physical health. According to a well-known overview of studies, loneliness (the sense of being alone), social alienation, and living alone are all risk factors for early death, with an elevated risk of death ranging from 26% to 32%.

What does anxiety do to thoughts?

The connections between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex are weakened by anxiety (PFC). The prefrontal cortex should step in and assist you to come up with a reasonable, rational reaction when the amygdala warns the brain about a potential threat or danger.

Are racing thoughts a symptom of anxiety?

Anxiety. The most prevalent cause of racing thoughts is anxiety. Although racing thoughts are most typical during an anxiety attack, they can happen at any moment. They can also occur before or after an anxiety attack.

What are psychotic thoughts?

Psychosis is defined as disturbances in a person’s thinking and perception which make it hard to distinguish between what is realistic and what isn’t. Seeing, hearing, and believing things that aren’t real, as well as having unusual, persisting thoughts, behaviours, and emotions, are common symptoms of these disturbances.

Why do we think irrational thoughts?

Long-term stress (e.g., working at a job you dislike) has been demonstrated in studies to cause anxiety and, as a result, irrational thinking. As a consequence of this kind of stress, something must be happening in your body or with your thinking processes.


How to Identify and Challenge Irrational Thinking

5 irrational thinking patterns that could be dragging you down — and how to start challenging them

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!