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FILE: Psychology

List of cognitive distortions and biases

Here is a list of irrational thinking patterns or cognitive distortions which they are called in cognitive therapy (cognitive therapy explained).

They represent some very common illogical and unrealistic ways of thinking that result in unnecessary negative feelings and psychological problems such as low self-esteem and depression.

Study, learn and master these concepts so that you can recognize them and hit them in the butt before they do too much damage.

The list is deliberately short and condensed so that you can use it as a reference and reminder.

List of cognitive distortions or irrational thinking

+Black-and-white or All-or-nothing thinking

You judge things, especially yourself, as being either very good or very bad.

  • You see things as either black or white, never a shade of gray in between.
  • If something is not perfect it is total rubbish.
  • This drives you to an unhealthy perfectionism and a
  • Fear of failure and fear of making mistakes, even the smallest one.
  • This is an unrealistic view of the world which rarely is perfect or black or white.
  • You will constantly be disappointed with yourself (never good enough) and the world.
Curt the Fox goes on a date


You believe that if something turned out a certain way once it will always turn out that way.

  • This is particularly common when it comes to drawing conclusions from negative events, shortcomings and failures.
  • After a negative event you believe (think) that you will always continue to fail, be rejected and feel bad.

+Mental filter

You always look for things that you find negative in a situation or in yourself and give it far more importance than what’s reasonable.

  • You do not see the positive things that could balance out or overshadow negative ones.
  • Since your focus is on what’s negative and you seldom see anything good, your view of yourself and the world becomes very sad, depressing and uninteresting.

+Disqualifying the positive

You transform positive events or personal traits into negative ones.

  • You make up reasons or explanations for why positive things really are negative or insignificant.

+Jumping to conclusions

You draw incorrect negative conclusions from selected “facts”.

  • You think that people act a certain way because of what you believe they think about you (MINDREADING).
  • You conclude that the future will turn out in a negative way based on some selected event or observation you have made (FORTUNETELLING).

+Magnification & Minimization

You give things either too much or too little attention.

  • You blow up your own mistakes and shortcomings to something far bigger than they actually are.
  • You give yourself too little credit for your own positive accomplishments or strengths.
  • Catastrophizing is a form of magnification where you think your way into expecting a catastrophe from a single isolated event.

+Emotional reasoning

You believe that your feelings are telling you the truth.

  • Feelings that come from irrational thoughts are not a reflection of the truth.
  • Unpleasant feelings can lead to life-crippling avoidance, all caused by irrational thinking.

+Should statements

You think a lot about how you and other people should or should not be.

  • You try to motivate yourself with a long list of “shoulds” or “musts“ which often lead to stress, inactivity and a constant feeling of not being good enough.
  • Your thoughts about how others should be makes you feel frustrated or disappointed since others seldom live up to your high demands.


You put negative descriptions on yourself and others in your thoughts.

  • The labels are not balanced and a fair description of reality.
  • When you label yourself and other people you forget that you, others and life in general are ever changing and never captured with a few words.


You think that you are responsible for everything negative that happens and that everything negative has to do with you.

  • Personalization leads to strong feelings of guilt.
  • You think that you are responsible for controlling everything and everyone when all we can hope for is to influence.

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