A cognitive distortion is any thought you have that feels real but may not be accurate. This can sometimes cause you to feel stressed and/or upset. Understanding these types of thoughts can help to reduce the negative impact they might have on you, your mood, and how you work towards your goals.
Here are a few examples of cognitive distortions to help you understand what these thoughts might sound like:
“I am the worst cook in the world.“
In this example, you may have just burned dinner tonight, but in general you make healthy and delicious meals. This cognitive distortion is taking one night of a dinner mishap and turning it into a general statement about your cooking ability, which is not accurate. This may cause you to feel upset, down on yourself, and/or potentially result in you avoiding cooking in the future.
“My friend didn’t call last night when she said she would. She must not like me and doesn’t want to be friends anymore.“
In this example, your friend may have not called when she was supposed to, but there could be a good reason as to why. Maybe her phone wasn’t working, or maybe she got stuck at work? This cognitive distortion is taking one missed phone call and turning that into your friend no longer wanting a friendship, which is likely not accurate. This may cause you to feel stressed, worried, and impact your relationship moving forward.
Now that you understand the term cognitive distortion, it is important to know that many people have them. Many of us have to work to try and pay attention to these thoughts as they happen.
Remember, when you notice a thought that may be causing you stress, ask yourself, “Is this accurate?” or “Is this thought helpful?” Being able to identify your cognitive distortions is the first step in being able to manage them. This can help reduce anxiety, depression, and other difficult feelings that you may be experiencing.