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Classic Cognitive Distortions or Assumptions (Brief Version)

Directions: Place a check mark next two the two you do most often.


All or Nothing Thinking:
You think of things in “black or white”, “right or wrong”, “perfect or terrible” categories.   

Over Generalizing:
You think of a single negative event as a never-ending pattern.

Mental Filtering:
You dwell on a single negative detail, and ignore moderate or positive things that may occur.   

Disqualifying the Positive:
You reject positive experiences... “They don’t count”.
You maintain a negative view in spite of contradictory evidence.

Mind Reading:
You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, & don’t check this out with them.

Fortune Telling:
You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and feel convinced that your prediction is a fact.

Catastrophizing:
You believe the worst-case scenario will definitely happen.

Magnifying or Minimizing:
You exaggerate the importance of certain things (e.g. your mistakes or other’s successes) and minimize other things (e.g. your own desirable qualities or other’s imperfections).

Emotional Reasoning:
You assume that the way you feel reflects the way things are.  “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

Shoulds:
You believe you must live up to excessively high standards, & may also have excessively high expectations of others.  You believe you should have known/done better, even when that would have been impossible.

Labeling/Mislabeling:
Instead of describing an error, you put a negative label on yourself/others.  e.g. Instead acknowledging your small error, you label yourself a “Loser”.

Personalization:
You see yourself as responsible for events around you that had little/no responsibility for.
e.g. Your friend is sad b/c her boyfriend left her, and you criticize yourself for having a boyfriend. 

Jumping To Conclusions:
You conclude that something is a fact without enough evidence.

Probability Overestimation:
You overestimate the likelihood that something negative or dangerous will occur.

Compensatory Misconceptions:
You believe that you must inflate your achievements to be socially successful.


Adapted from: Cognitive Distortions (1999). The Shyness Institute, Portola Valley, CA