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Challenging Cognitive Distortions

Dana Bear, Director of Strategy & Partnerships

March 24th, 2023

Wellness Blog

Challenging Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions affect the way we think about things and can prevent us from objectively viewing situations.

Have you ever found yourself automatically blaming yourself for things that went wrong, even when it had nothing to do with you? Or do you tend to focus only on the negative aspects of a situation, while ignoring the positives? Perhaps you often imagine the worst-case scenario, even when the likelihood of it happening is slim? If any of these sound familiar, you may be experiencing cognitive distortions.

Cognitive distortions are negative patterns of thinking that can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. They can impact your relationships, your work, and your overall quality of life. In this blog post, we’ll discuss four common cognitive distortions and provide some tips to challenge them.


Personalizing is when you automatically assume responsibility for things that are beyond your control. For example, if a co-worker is in a bad mood, you might assume that you did something to upset them. But is this thought accurate? Is there any evidence to support it? Often, the answer is no. When you find yourself personalizing, challenge the thought by asking yourself if it’s factual or just your interpretation.


Filtering is when you only focus on the negative aspects of a situation, while ignoring the positives. For example, if you got an a- on an exam, you might focus on the one question you got wrong, rather than celebrating the fact that you did well overall. If you find yourself filtering, try to take a step back and look at the situation objectively. Acknowledge both the good and the bad and try to find a balanced perspective.


Catastrophizing is when you imagine the worst-case scenario, even when the likelihood of it happening is slim. For example, if you hear a loud noise in your house at night, you might assume that someone has broken in, even though it’s more likely that it was just a random noise. When catastrophizing, try to challenge your assumptions. Consider alternative explanations and ask yourself how likely it is that the worst-case scenario will happen.


Polarizing is when you see things as either completely good or completely bad, with no middle ground. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy or failure, as you feel that you must be perfect all the time. For example, if you make a mistake at work, you might feel like a complete failure, even though everyone makes mistakes. When you catch yourself polarizing, try to reframe the situation. Acknowledge both the good and the bad and remember that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process.

Cognitive distortions can have a significant impact on your mental health and overall well-being. By recognizing and challenging these patterns of thinking, you can begin to shift your mindset towards a more positive and balanced outlook. Remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to make mistakes – it’s all part of being human.

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