Those of us who suffer from clinical depression often find that our illness clouds the way we think. We think of ourselves negatively. That’s part of depression. Recently I have begun to understand (through guidance in therapy) that my thoughts are often flawed. You may have heard of cognitive distortions. Since learning about these faulty thinking patterns, I have begun to catch myself doing them and can now think about my thinking. Here is a list.
Perfectionism – This one is a big one for me. I must be perfect in everything, or I am a failure. It is sometimes called “all or nothing” thinking. I often find that there are no gray areas or compromises. I now see that when I have done my best it doesn’t have to live up to my idea of perfect.
Should Statements – When I do this, I am arbitrarily setting a standard that is just my opinion. I am thinking that I should be vacuuming the floor instead of writing. I think that I should be better backing up my car. It is alright that there is a bit of dirt on the floor (I’ll get it later) and those two dents in my bumper are no big deal.
Over–Personalization – I’m calling myself on the carpet. I take too much responsibility for situations that are not my problems. I try to fix others problems even if they don’t think it is a problem. I believe what other people say about me. That is their opinion. This kind of thinking causes me to meddle in other peoples lives and give too much of myself. I get my feelings hurt when someone criticizes me. Why do I think I need to rescue others or care what they think?
Selective Attention and Mental Filtering – I let the positives in life fly by unnoticed and only hear the negative things. I worry about those negatives. Someone might say that I did a great job vacuuming, but you missed that spot. Which part of that statement did I hear?
Denial or Blaming – I think that I am helpless or hopeless. I don’t recognize my capabilities. I never kept my checkbook balanced as my Mom told me. I don’t acknowledge that never missing a payment shows that I’m doing an excellent job with my finances.
False-Permanence – I have made some mistakes in life, and I will NEVER FORGIVE MYSELF. I did learn something from those mistakes, and I have made some better choices. Those mistakes did not stick to me. The tree I hit while backing up will live!
Over-Generalizing – I’m an idiot, a failure, ugly and lazy. Someone may have said one of these things one time, and I believed them and continued to think that way about myself. I think I am ugly, but I look like my Momma, and I think she was beautiful.
Catastrophizing – I think if I wreak my car (that thing with two dents in the bumper), I will never be able to afford another one. That is WHY I pay my car insurance on time. I may think that life will never be happy for me. Depression fools us into believing that it will never go away and our life is a waste. It isn’t true. There will be times that are beautiful, and you can have a very fulfilling experience. One thing that will help is to practice changing your thinking.
Magical thinking – I tell myself that I would feel better if I were thinner or wealthier, or better looking. Honestly, none of those things would change my circumstances.
Emotional reasoning – Emotions are not a reality. I didn’t like the spaghetti I cooked last night so I can’t make it and won’t try that dish again. I left dirty dishes in the sink overnight. I’m a lousy housekeeper. I’m just learning these things, so I admit I continue to have this distortion. Sorry about that.
Mind-reading or Jumping to Conclusions – These types of distorted thinking are my most prevalent. I have convinced myself that others dislike me and that I am not useful to my family. I walk around thinking that she probably feels that or he doesn’t appreciate this. I think others think I am crazy. All of these thoughts swirl around in my mind and cause me to lose sleep. Why should I feel this way when the opposite is the truth, and nobody is concerned enough about what I do or say to have an opinion?
Double Standard – I hold myself to a higher standard than I would my best friend. I expect myself to be stronger and able to withstand more difficulties. I don’t expect my friend to deal with such hardships. I am very compassionate toward her but not to myself.
Self-centeredness – I often focus more on my feelings and ignore how circumstances impact others. I can’t go to that party I get nervous at parties. I’ll look pitiful to my coworkers if I take my lunch rather than going out. I have to get over myself and join the rest of the world!
A fallacy of Fairness – This distortion is that things should be fair. No explanation is necessary for that one folks.