Thinking Styles

The following is a list of the most common distorted thinking styles:

All Or Nothing Thinking.

Looking at things in absolute, black and white categories. Refusing to see possible “shades of grey.”

Over Generalization.

Viewing a negative event as a never ending pattern of defeat. E.g. Taking a single failure in one segment of your life and drawing conclusions from it for your whole life. The “generalizer” needs to only fail once to imagine a million failures thereafter and those imagined failures are as painful as the real ones.

Mental Filter.

Dwelling on the negatives and ignoring the positives. This is a distortion of what really happens and a tendency to only see the negative aspects of an event.

Magnification And Minimizing.

“Catastrophizing”(“making a mountain out of a molehill”) or adopting the attitude that something that is very important “doesn’t matter anyway.” Or accepting unnecessary defeat.

Emotional Reasoning.

Reasoning from emotions felt rather than from reason or facts. E.g. “I feel like an idiot so I really must be.” Or , “I don’t feel like doing this so I’ll just put it off.


Legalism. The belief that there is only one way things should be without room for exception. The assumption that anything that falls short of the way it “should” be is wrong and to be considered failure.

Labeling Or Mislabeling.

Identifying or labeling yours or other’s shortcomings. Instead of saying “I made a mistake”, you tell yourself “I’m a jerk”, “fool”, or “loser”. This is a form of over generalization.

Personalization And Blame.

Blaming yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for or you blame other people and overlook ways that your own attitudes and behavior might have contributed to the problem.

This list of distorted thinking styles can be used in cognitive therapy to identify and categorize automatic thoughts and assumptions.

Return To Home Page