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Anxiety and Negative Thought Patterns


Clinically, negative thinking patterns are known as cognitive distortions. Negative thought patterns are an extreme and inaccurate way of thinking, such as: 

  • He’s late coming home from work, he must’ve been in an accident.
  • I failed that exam. I should just drop out of school
  • I’m bad at interviews, so what’s the point in applying for the job

Occasionally, we all think negatively and jump to conclusions. However, if we continuously think this way, it can lead to increased stress and anxiety, and worsen depression symptoms

Cognitive Distortions & Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on cognitive distortions. CBT is a treatment option for generalized anxiety disorder. Negative thinking patterns: 

  • Arise when an issue surfaces
  • Reinforce self-defeating beliefs 
  • Increases anxiety and stress 

When treating people with anxiety disorders, negative thinking patterns are an area of focus. Unking and unhelpful thoughts have negative effects on a person’s mental health. By helping others to recognize these thinking patterns and learn to be gentler and more forgiving of themselves, CBT can make a positive impact.

It’s possible to identify and change negative thinking patterns. You can begin to train your brain to work more for you rather than against you by being able to understand what negative thinking patterns are, and how they can amp up anxiety. 

  1. Polarized Thinking 

A polarized mindset, or “all or nothing” thinking, is one in which one thinks regularly in extremes. If something doesn’t go exactly right, it’s immediately a failure. Let’s say you start a new fitness routine and go to the gym daily. If you are not able to make it to the gym for one day, you see this as a failure and give up going to the gym ever again. 

  1. Emotional Reasoning 

Cognitive distortions assume that whatever you feel is accurate. As an example, you feel anxious on a plane, so you conclude that flying is dangerous. Even though it’s important to express your feelings and listen to them, it’s also important to judge them logically based on reality and facts.  

  1. Personalization 

Personalization means you see other people’s actions in direct correlation with you – even when they’re not connected to you at all. You’ve accepted blame for something that happened and in reality, has nothing to do with you. Or it may be completely out of your control. Assuming that you have been excluded from a meeting when this is actually incorrect for a reason unknown to you, you are personalizing the situation. 

  1. Overgeneralization 

Overgeneralization is assuming something will always happen to you or will never happen to you because it happened one time. You make a rule for something that has had few occurrences. Let’s say you invite a friend for coffee, but they can’t make it. You may think to yourself, “My friends never want to hang out with me.” Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), along with other anxiety disorders, is associated with overgeneralization as well. 

How to Change Negative Thoughts

Over time, cognitive distortions can be corrected. You can try some of the following tips if you want to try to change your patterns of thinking over time: 

  • The first step is to identify distortions in your thinking. Pay attention to the ones you return to often.   
  • By challenging negative thoughts you can ask yourself if the situation is truly black and white. Seek out facts and ask yourself questions. 
  • Speak to yourself with compassion, understanding that your thoughts are not always facts. 
  • Ask a friend, relative, or therapist for their point of view. They may be able to help you shift your perspective and begin to view the situation in a different light

Negative thinking patterns can negatively impact your mental health and relationships. You can seek professional help on your jo If you’d like to request an appointment, please reach out to us today. 

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