Cognitive distortions and biases are irritational thinking styles associated with emotional difficulties such as stress, anxiety and depression. Research suggests that biased thinking and information processing affects what an individual perceives. Consequently this leads to biased decision-making, emotion, and action. Distorted and biased thinking in depression was identified by Aaron Beck in 1960’s the founder of Cognitive Therapy.

Labelling and identifying unhelpful thinking styles can allow individuals to detach from their emotional distress and they can acknowledge that the bias is effecting their perception and judgement. Subsequently this can reduce emotional distress, improve mood and be used as a strategy to challenge and undermine negative automatic thoughts such as ‘I am a failure’.

Identifying negative thinking styles heightens emotional self awareness and regulation which ultimately increases your emotional Intelligence. Using these strategies can minimise conflicts and misunderstandings in the workplace and your personal life.

10 unhelpful thinking styles/distortions

1. Catastrophizing – seeing the worst possible outcome such as ‘I will miss the bus, be late for work and subsequently lose my job. This thinking styles is common when feeling anxious

2. Overgeneralizations – making broad interpretations and conclusions with little information

3. Magnification and Minimization – exaggerating or minimizing the significance of events

4.Dichotomous Thinking ( all or nothing thinking ) – I always do this or never succeed there is no middle ground due to this rigid and inflexible outlook

5. Jumping to conclusions – interpreting the meaning of a situation with little or no evidence

6. Negative Bias – ignore the positive and focus on the negative

7. Emotional Reasoning- using your emotions to reason and as a barometer of reality.

8. Assumptions such as should, musts and ought to

9. Personalization -believing that you’re responsible for events beyond your control

10. Mind reading – believing you know what someone else is thinking with no evidence

Martina Witter

Accredited Cognitive Behaviour Therapist I Corporate Resilience and wellness trainer