Challenge your thinking for anxiety and depression relief- Part 2


This week we will cover the other eight cognitive distortions. Did you observe your thinking last week and identify any of the distortions that we covered? Did you find a link between feeling depressed or anxious and one or more of these errors in thinking?

Alright then, let’s move on to cover the other common cognitive distortions. They are:

8. Fallacy of fairness
We think that things should go according to our notion of what is fair and expect people and situations to measure up to this. For example, we think that if a customer service representative gives a discount to our friend that we should also get the same discount.
More realistic thought: Sometimes people are lucky to call at just right the time when a discount is applied. Maybe I’ll be lucky next time.

9. Blaming
This is the flip side of personalization. We hold other people responsible for our problems. This leads us to not take responsibility for our choices. We might think, my husband’s negative remark is going to screw up my whole day.
More realistic thought: I did not like my husband’s remark but I am going to move on and make the most of this day anyway.

10. Shoulds
This is one of the most common errors. We assume that everyone and everything adheres to our standards and requirements. Whenever you hear yourself using the word should you can be sure you are making this error. For example, we think others should respond to our emails within 24 hours.
More realistic thought: I would like a prompt response to my email but sometimes people are too busy to respond as quickly as I would like.

11. Emotional reasoning
We assume that if we feel something it must be true, confusing our feelings with reality. We might think we are worthless if we feel worthless.
More realistic thought: I am having a hard time today and feel worthless but I know that there are other days when I know that I have good qualities and have something to contribute.

12. Fallacy of change
We think that others must change to suit our needs and happiness. We abdicate responsibility for our happiness and instead make our happiness dependent on other people changing. An example would be expecting your whole family to follow the dietary requirements that you are following due to a medical condition that only you alone have.
More realistic thought: Just because I am on a special diet doesn’t mean that my family has to follow it too.

13. Global labeling
We take an accidental or circumstantial attribute and make the assumption that this is indicative of our character. This is a more severe form of overgeneralization. For example, we might think we are a loser or failure because we made a mistake.
More realistic thought: Everyone makes mistakes. This doesn’t mean I won’t succeed.

14. Always being right
We go to great lengths to prove that we are right disregarding the feelings of others. For example, we think that we have to continue to argue a point when the other person is clearly becoming more angry and defensive.
More realistic thought: I think I may be right but I don’t have to keep arguing with my friend when it seems to be upsetting him.

15. Heaven’s reward fallacy
We think that all our hard work, self-sacrifice and self-denial will pay off and we will be rewarded as though someone is keeping score. For example, we think that if we volunteered to clean up at an event we will get a special mention in the organization’s newletter.
More realistic thought: I volunteered at the event because I believe in what the organization is doing in our community. It would be a nice surprise to be recognized for my efforts but I don’t expect it.

Working with errors in your thinking can help you to better cope day-to-day with feelings of depression and anxiety. As you practice identifying and replacing faulty thinking with more realistic thinking your symptoms will lessen and you will have more acceptance of the things that life hands you. Also you will assume more responsibility for your choices and how you react to the results of those choices. There is a brief description of how this model works here.

If you want to delve further into this I highly recommend Dr. David Burns’ books. They are available through his website:

This information is for educational purposes only and should not in any way be considered a substitute for professional help.If you are in need of immediate help please contact your local psychiatric emergency services.

Self-reflection: Be your own therapist

Photo: Kathleen McCormick

How is your life going? Do you keep running into the same problems over and over again? Would you like to:

  • not second guess yourself so much
  • be good enough as you are without comparing yourself to someone else
  • stop taking things so personally
  • be able to handle situations that are difficult without thinking the worst will happen
  • refrain from blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong
  • stop feeling that you have to do things perfectly

Do you see a way out?

Getting help or helping yourself

For many years now I have subscribed to a way of dealing with problems. It is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is very simple and elegant in how it can provide you with insight into how you think and how this interacts with feelings and behaviors. CBT is problem-focused and action oriented. It can be done with the help of a therapist and there are also many excellent workbooks and interactive computer programs that people can use on their own. What I find to be really great about CBT is that it provides you with a framework that ultimately teaches you to be your own therapist. Basically it helps you to become critical of your own negative thinking and to think more realistically and constructively. It also helps you to figure out which behaviors are serving you well and which are not. It has been found to be effective in treating almost every mental health issue from depression to addiction use disorders to schizophrenia.

The basics

Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck are considered to be the fathers of cognitive behavioral models of treatment. They came up with their models independently. Albert Ellis’ model is referred to as Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy while Aaron Beck’s model is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy . In these blog posts I will concentrate on Aaron Beck’s model since this is the model I was trained in and use. It explains how thinking affects mood and behavior and how this cycles back again to affect thinking. We learn to challenge our negative thinking and, through practice, become able to trace our negative thoughts back to our basic beliefs about ourselves, the world and the future. We can also challenge negative beliefs by addressing the behavioral part of the problem. For example, if we believe we are too anxious to attend social events we might test this out by arranging to meet a friend at a party. We essentially set up an experiment to prove ourselves wrong and gradually this belief begins to change.

Where do you start?

Once the basic model is understood you can start to work on your thinking and behavior in order to improve how you feel. You can learn more about this process at the following websites which I highly recommend:

Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

Dr. David Burns’ website, Feeling Good: