What Cognitive Distortions Do You Have?

Posted By on May 4, 2017 |

Cognitive distortions are things that we believe as truth, but they are not reality.  If we live our life based on our cognitive distortions, it will hinder us from living a productive, healthy life.  That is why it is important to be aware of cognitive distortions, so we can check our thinking and work on changing those false beliefs about ourselves and the world we live in.

There are basically 15 cognitive distortions that have been named by David Burns, MD who works at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA.  He is a psychiatrist and has written many books.  My favorites are “Feeling Good”, and “When Panic Attacks”.

These are 15 Cognitive Distortions:

1. Filtering. We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation.

2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking). In polarized thinking, things are either “black-or-white.” We have to be perfect or we’re a failure.

3. Overgeneralization.In this cognitive distortion, we come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence.

4. Jumping to Conclusions. Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do.

5. Catastrophizing. We expect disaster to strike, no matter what. This is also referred to as “magnifying or minimizing.

6. Personalization. Personalization is a distortion where a person believes that everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to the person. We also compare ourselves to others trying to determine who is smarter, better looking, etc.

7. Control Fallacies. If we feel externally controlled, we see ourselves as helpless a victim of fate. For example, “I can’t help it if the quality of the work is poor, my boss demanded I work overtime on it.” The fallacy of internal control has us assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around us. For example, “Why aren’t you happy? Is it because of something I did?”

8. Fallacy of Fairness. We feel resentful because we think we know what is fair, but other people won’t agree with us. As our parents tell us when we’re growing up and something doesn’t go our way, “Life isn’t always fair.”

9. Blaming. We hold other people responsible for our pain, or take the other track and blame ourselves for every problem.

10. Shoulds. We have a list of ironclad rules about how others and we should behave. People who break the rules make us angry, and we feel guilty when we violate these rules.

11. Emotional Reasoning. We believe that what we feel must be true automatically. If we feel stupid and boring, then we must be stupid and boring.

12. Fallacy of Change. We expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough. We need to change people because our hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.

13. Global Labeling. We generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. These are extreme forms of generalizing, and are also referred to as “labeling” and “mislabeling.”

14. Always Being Right. We are continually on trial to prove that our opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and we will go to any length to demonstrate our rightness.

15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy. We expect our sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone is keeping score. We feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.

If you would like to get more information on each distortion you can visit PyschCentral .

To learn how to fix cognitive distortions visit “Fixing Cognitive Distortions”.


Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapies and emotional disorders. New York: New American Library.

Burns, D. D. (1980). Feeling good: The new mood therapy. New York: New American Library.

Vickie Parker, MFT