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10 Forms of Twisted Thinking

10 Forms of Twisted ThinkingBoth David Burns (bestselling author of Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy and Abraham Low (founder of Recovery, Inc.) teach techniques to analyze negative thoughts (or identify distorted thinking — what psychologists call “cognitive distortions”) so to be able to disarm and defeat them.

Since Low’s language is a bit out-dated, I list below Burns’ “Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking,” (adapted from his “Feeling Good” book, a classic read) categories of dangerous ruminations, that when identified and brought into your consciousness, lose their power over you.

1. All-or-nothing thinking (a.k.a. my brain and the Vatican’s): You look at things in absolute, black-and-white categories.

2. Overgeneralization (also a favorite): You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

3. Mental filter: You dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives.

4. Discounting the positives: You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities don’t count (my college diploma was stroke of luck…really, it was).

5. Jumping to conclusions (loves alcoholic families): You conclude things are bad without any definite evidence. These include mind-reading (assuming that people are reacting negatively to you) and fortune-telling (predicting that things will turn out badly).

6. Magnification or minimization: You blow things way out of proportion or you shrink their importance.

7. Emotional reasoning: You reason from how you feel: “I feel like an idiot, so I must be one.”

8. “Should” statements (every other word for me): You criticize yourself or other people with “shoulds,” “shouldn’ts,” “musts,” “oughts,” and “have-tos.”

9. Labeling: Instead of saying, “I made a mistake,” you tell yourself, “I’m a jerk” or “I’m a loser.”

10. Blame: You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and overlook ways that you contributed to a problem.

You can learn more about the 15 common cognitive distortions (e.g., the most common forms of twisted thinking with more in-depth explanations and examples), as well as how you can fix cognitive distortions once you’ve identified them.

10 Forms of Twisted Thinking


Therese J. Borchard

Therese J. Borchard is a mental health writer and advocate. She is the founder of the online depression communities Project Hope & Beyond and Group Beyond Blue, and is the author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes and The Pocket Therapist. You can reach her at thereseborchard.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.


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APA Reference
Borchard, T. (2018). 10 Forms of Twisted Thinking. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/10-forms-of-twisted-thinking/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.