Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the therapeutic techniques that has been backed with research and evidence as one of the most effective types of treatment for anxiety and depression. This approach is designed in part to help people explore and uncover distortions and irrational beliefs that may be fueling and driving their anxieties and depression. What follows is a list of some of the most common types of irrational beliefs. Most people have thought some of these occasionally at various times in their life. The ones that really jump out at you as thought patterns you have routinely and regularly should be particularly noteworthy as they may be having a much larger impact on your life than you know.

Types of Irrational Beliefs

  • Sensationalism: Normal and minor feelings and events are blown out of proportion. Ex. “I feel down today, so I must have depression.” Someone cuts you off while driving and you conclude they must have road rage and are very dangerous.
  • Anthropomorphism: This is when people attribute human characteristics to inanimate objects. Ex. “The washing machine was trying to piss me off.
  • Permatizing: This is taking something temporary and making it permanent. Ex. “I’ll never be happy.”
  • Perfectionism: This is where a person selects the highest possible ideal (that no one can achieve all or even most of time) for themselves and/or others and then uses this impossible standard as a benchmark for normalcy. Ex. “I should never make mistakes.”
  • Awfulizing: You take the negative details and magnify them while ignoring all the positive aspects of the situation. Ex. Student gets an A on the written part of exam and a D on the oral and says, “I totally messed up on the exam.” Ex. “I have a headache, so I probably have a tumor.”
  • Entitlement: Claiming to have exceptional privilege that simply does not exist or is unjustified. Ex. “I shouldn’t have to wait in line like these people.”
  • Egocentric Error: This is an error where people assume that because they are the center of their own world, that they are also the center of everyone else’s world. Ex. “Everyone should treat me nicely.”
  • Overpowering: This is where people attempt to solve problems by bulldozing over them and failing to acknowledge the realities of certain situations. Ex. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”; “Just keep your chin up, and it will get better.”
  • Possibilities Equal Probabilities: If it is possible for an event to happen, then it is probable. Ex. “if something can go wrong, it will.” Ex. A person believes that just because intruders have been known to monitor homes before intrusion, that they are currently being monitored by a potential intruder.
  • Anecdotal Evidence: This is where a person decides that based on one example that it must apply to everyone in all situations. Ex. “I know someone who….”
  • Self-Righteousness: Believing that good intentions are more important than outcomes. Ex. “I meant well.” Ex. “But I was only trying to help.”
  • Polarized Thinking: Things are black or white, good or bad. There is no middle ground, you have to be perfect or else you’re a failure. Statements tend to include words like always, never, completely, totally, perfectly. Ex. “Unless I win the Noble Prize, my work is valueless.”
  • Overgeneralization: You come to general conclusions based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once you expect it to happen over and over again. Ex. A depressed man is turned down for a date and says, “I’ll never find a satisfying relationship.”
  • Mind Reading: Without saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling toward you. Ex. “My boss is planning to fire me.”
  • Catastrophizing: You expect disaster. You notice or hear about a problem and start “what if’s.” What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to me? Ex. “The end of this relationship is the end of all happiness for me.”
  • Personalization: The person tends to interpret an event or situation as indicative of something about themselves, usually negative. Ex. “The fact that I’m doing this routine job proves that I’m a stupid person incapable of taking on a challenging position.”
  • Control Fallacies: If you feel externally controlled, you see yourself as helpless, a victim of fate. Ex. “It’s not my fault, destiny wanted me to fail.”  The fallacy of internal control has you responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you. Ex. “It’s my fault she’s sad because I’m having a bad day.”
  • Fallacy of Fairness: You feel resentful because you think you know what’s fair but other people won’t agree with you. Ex. “It’s not fair, I shouldn’t have to do it the same as everyone else.”
  • Blaming: You hold other people responsible for your pain, Ex. “He does that on purpose to upset me” or take the other tact and blame yourself for every problem or reversal, Ex. “It’s my fault you didn’t win the prize.”
  • Shoulds: You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act. People who break the rules anger you and you feel guilty if you violate the rules. Ex. “I should exercise five times a week.”
  • Emotional Reasoning: You believe that what you feel must be true – automatically. If you feel stupid and boring, then you must be stupid and boring. Ex. “I feel hopeless, therefore I am hopeless and will never get better.”
  • The Fallacy of Change: You expect other people will change to suit you if you just pressure or cajole them enough. You need to change people because your hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them. Ex. “Come on honey, can’t you see how this way of doing it is better.”
  • Global Labeling: You generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. Ex. “She made a mistake so she is an idiot.”
  • Being Right: You are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness. Ex. “If you’ll just hear me out, I can explain how this is the best way to do this project.”
  • Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: You expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if there were someone keeping score. You feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come. Ex. “It’s OK, you go ahead. I’ll play next time.”
  • Predicting the Future: Assuming to know the future based on a small piece of evidence in the present. Ex. After reading the material one time and not understanding it the student believes, “I will never get it.”
  • Illogical Thinking: Jumping to conclusions arbitrarily, involving unwarranted connections between ideas that are unrelated or related in different ways. Ex. An unemployed man is having difficulty looking for a job because of the idea, “If I’m offered a job, I’ll have to accept it even if it’s not right for me.”
  • Disqualifying the Positive: The person, rather than ignoring the positive, actively invalidates it. Ex. For the student that got an A on the written part and a D on the oral part of the exam says, “The written part doesn’t really count, I always do well on written exams, it’s the oral part that really matters to me.”
  • Magnification/Minimization: In magnification, the person makes too much of something. Ex. “I lost my keys today, I’m incompetent.” In minimization, the person makes too little of something. Ex. “I did well today, but it says nothing about how I will do tomorrow.”

Maple Grove Psychiatrists

If you want help further exploring the impact of your thinking in your life, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an individual consultation with one of our providers so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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