CBT ‘Thinking Errors’ and Cognitive Distortions

What are CBT ‘Thinking Errors’ and Cognitive Distortions all about?

According to the “cognitive model” as described in the CBT approach, it is the interpretation of an event that influences one’s emotional, behavioural, and physiological responses, not the event itself.  These interpretations are often expressed through what is termed in CBT as ‘automatic thoughts’. Although automatic thoughts seem to occur quite suddenly and almost unconsciously, one can learn to recognise them as they often follow a particular pattern.

Individuals who suffer with psychological distress regularly misinterpret life events in a negative manner, and consequently their automatic thoughts are distorted. They are inclined to perceive the world, the future, and themselves in a particularly maladaptive way; a concept Aaron Beck termed the ‘cognitive triad’. Beck searched for the assumptions (patterns) that were at the root of these negative automatic thoughts (‘NATs’) and found that common errors in thinking could be seen to underlie psychological disorders. For instance, individuals with depression tend to think about themselves, the world and the future in a negative way. People with anxiety disorders tend to think about the world as threatening, the future as threateningly unpredictable and themselves as vulnerable.

If you would like further information, or to have a free consultation over the phone with me, please just get in touch and I’d be happy to explain in greater detail how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy may be able to help with any behavioural and emotional difficulties you’re experiencing. Sessions for CBT are available in my practice in Radlett in Hertfordshire.

Cognitive Distortions represent the various ways in which a person alters incoming information so that it is more in sync with the content of their underlying core beliefs. In other words they serve the purpose of affirming an individual’s distorted views of the world and themselves.

Beck (1964) originally outlined six errors in thinking (cognitive distortions), which included arbitrary inference, selective abstraction, over-generalisation, magnification and minimisation, personalisation, and dichotomous thinking. Burns (1980) later renamed and expanded Beck’s thinking errors to include ten types: all-or-nothing thinking; over-generalisation; mental filter; discounting the positive; jumping to conclusions; magnification; emotional reasoning; ‘should’ statements; labelling; and personalisation and blame. The CBT Therapist will assist in explaining how these thoughts can be challenged and eventually changed.