Thinking Errors...what are your favourites?

Hi there. Some of you may know that I am a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, others may not, but I thought all of you whether sufferers, carers or supporters might find this list useful. I've posted it on individual posts before, but feel it is worthy of its own thread (for want of a better word).

The text is from an Information Sheet I give to every client that comes through my door. It does not matter why they have chosen to visit me...everyone gets a copy as it lets people see their thinking is normal. It might be slightly skewed, but they are not alone in thinking in this way.

There are 17 errors in all, and there is some crossover between the different errors, but becoming aware of them and realising they are errors, which can be corrected can take the power away from our thoughts.

Take time to have a look through the list and have a think about how many you employ. What's your favourite?

1.Mind reading: You assume that you know what people think without having sufficient evidence of their thoughts. “He thinks I’m a loser.”

2.Fortune-telling: You predict the future negatively: Things will get worse, or there is danger ahead. “I’ll fail that exam,” or “I won’t get the job.”

3.Catastrophising: You believe that what has happened or will happen will be so awful and unbearable that you won’t be able to stand it. “It would be terrible if I failed.”

4.Labelling: You assign global negative traits to yourself and others. “I’m undesirable,” or “He’s a rotten person.”

5.Discounting positives: You claim that the positive things you or others do are trivial. “That’s what wives are supposed to do – so it doesn’t count when she’s nice to me.”

6.Negative filtering: You focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives. “Look at all of the people who don’t like me.”

7.Overgeneralising: You perceive a global pattern of negatives on the basis of a single incident. “This generally happens to me. I seem to fail at a lot of things.”

8.Dichotomous thinking: You view events or people in all-or-nothing terms. “I get rejected by everyone,” or “It was a complete waste of time.”

9.Shoulds: You interpret events in terms of how things should be, rather than simply focussing on what is. “I should do well. If I don’t, then I’m a failure.”

10.Personalising: You attribute a disproportionate amount of the blame to yourself for negative events, and you fail to see that certain events are caused by others. “The marriage ended because I failed.”

11.Blaming: You focus on the other person as the source of your negative feelings, and you refuse to take responsibility for changing yourself. “She’s to blame for the way I feel now,” or “My parents caused all my problems.”

12.Unfair comparison: You interpret events in terms of standards that are unrealistic – for example, you focus primarily on others who do better than you and find yourself inferior in the comparison. “She’s more successful than I am,” or “Others did better than I did on the test.”

13.Regret orientation: You focus on the idea that you could have done better in the past, rather on what you can do better now. “I could have had a better job if I had tried,” or “I shouldn’t have said that.”

14.What if?: You keep asking a series of questions about “what if” something happens, and you fail to be satisfied with any of the answers. “Yeah, but what if I get anxious?” or “What if I can’t catch my breath?”

15.Emotional reasoning: You let your feelings guide your interpretation of reality. “I feel depressed; therefore, my marriage is not working out.”

16.Inability to disconfirm: You reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict your negative thoughts. For example, when you have the thought “I’m unlovable”, you reject as irrelevant any evidence that people like you. Consequently, your thought cannot be refuted. “That’s not the real issue. There are deeper problems. There are other factors.”

17.Judgement focus: You view yourself, others, and the events in terms of evaluations as good-bad or superior-inferior, rather than simply describing, accepting or understanding. You are continually measuring yourself and others according to arbitrary standards, and finding that you and others fall short. You are focussed on the judgements of others as well as your own judgements of yourself. “I didn’t perform well in college,” or “If I take up tennis, I won’t do well,” or “Look how successful she is. I’m not successful.”

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34 Replies

  • Not sure what this comes under but Im always thinking I should have done this or said that often about things that happened years ago and can't be changed, I know that and there's no point in getting upset now so why do I keep repeating these things over and over in my mind !!

    I do try and be positive and optimistic but bad luck seems to follow me around :D

    Mimii xx

  • That's good old number 9 mimii, with a sprinkling of 13. A very popular choice..starts to sound like we are picking from the wine list. Of course when we look back on a situation we are already aware of the pitfalls of the very situation we are reflecting on. Take time to remember we act based on the information we have at that moment. Two phrases that crop to mind are:

    Experience is something you get just after you need it


    Hindsight is 20/20 vision.

    "bad luck seems to follow me around" is an interesting phrase or saying. Do you spend time looking for evidence that bad luck is following you around? If you do you might be participating in a cocktail of 5 and 6.

    It's amazing how often we find ourselves (I include me) employing a thinking error.

  • Ok think I get it , instead of thinking I got the job I wanted on a permanent contract thats great, I'm focussing on the fact they got the wrong info on contract and on my pay slip theyve put me on wrong pay scale and Im being paid less money than I should be :D

    Mimii xx

  • That made me smile...but if they are getting your pay wrong...tell them. ;-)

  • Oh I have, had to call my manager but guess what he wasn't there and hasn't called back :D just as well Ive got sense of humour, on way back from induction course car engine kept cutting out , was on busy roundabout in pouring rain thankfully it started again, did it again few more times, made my heart go I can tell you had a few fags after that :D xx

  • Thank you so much for sharing this............. I do so many of them and its good to see in black and white evidence............ Im going to print it off and keep it to remind me....


    Ker xx

  • I find that's the beauty of the list. Having the awareness starts to not only take the power away, but it hands it to you.

  • :-)

  • hahaha...oh dear

    the only ones I don't think I do are 5, 15 and 17...think I need my 12 week cbt that I'm on the list for asap

    sam x

  • It's okay to do them. I've done all of them at one time or another, and still do them. That's the thing about thoughts...they're automatic. we can't stop them, but we can become aware of them and then start challenging them.

  • Hi Lions, I have a similar list from my cbt therapist, but she says i should blame others for how i am as i learnt my negatives from them? And that if i totally ignore the negatives i cannot and will not cope when some come along !! its confusing me cbt i dnt like it, feel so awful and cry for days after a session x

  • It is true that we pick a lot of negative beliefs about ourselves from others. The others can be anyone, or anything including media, churches, parents, teachers, friends, enemies, our own culture. It is not about ignoring negatives, but learning from them. By becoming aware of our own negative thoughts and learning how to challenge them. Going through therapy can be emotionally draining and can bring up lots of feelings, negative and positive. It is cathartic to cry, and tears are nothing to be ashamed of.

  • Thanks for this! :D

    Sometimes I do the 'what if' one (number 14), (although I've tried challenging it more recently :) as I realised the error in my thinking), during my A levels I did 3...all the time. :P I'm not doing that so much now though which is a positive. :)

    But, I'm finding myself ruminating a lot at the moment about things I regret doing in the past (number 13), so I know that needs to be worked on.

    It's reassuring to see that these thinking errors are normal. It just goes to show, no human is perfect.

    Take care and kind regards,

    Fay :) xx

  • Erm hello lol, now you've me me xxx

  • Hey I'm Fay. :) I think we've spoken a few times before. How are you? xx

  • Busy being perfect lol, perfectly sick and tired. How are you Hun xxx

  • Haha me too. :P It's tiring isn't it?

    Hope you feel better soon. Yeah not too bad thanks. I'm not very well, I felt REALLY poorly earlier I didn't think I'd be able to cope, it wasn't too the point of it being scary, but it was close and if I'd felt any worse I would have felt scared. But my fav singer is soothing me, so feeling a bit better now thanks. :)

    I like your take on Can't Be True. :) It's clever.


  • Your statement "It just goes to show, no human is perfect" reminded me of a quote I posted on my company facebook page yesterday.

    You were born to be real, not perfect.

  • Hiya, here is my take on CBT ( Can't Be True )

    1. I know what people think but am lucky to be in the land of the self righteous, happy in my own body and mind so don't care what people think.

    2. I like to file this under Fact of life. After 32 yrs of study ( since leaving home ) for every one positive in my life, it is shortly followed by two cosmic kicks in me ass. I live with this by wearing padded granny pants, not because I'm incontinant.

    3. I can stand anything, I am woman, hear me roar.

    4 - 7. I am beautiful as is everyone else. I have a selfish side, as does everyone else. I was born and I will die, so will everyone else, and most important of all. I have a hole in me bum, and so does everyone else.

    8 - 10. Kay Sarah Sarah.

    11. I don't blame anyone for me being so fabulous and charming and witty, neither to I blame those that can't see this fact.

    12. Nobody can do things better than me. I can't drive, but if I could, I'd do it better than anyone.

    13 - 14. I regret nothing and would not change anything as when you are this great, no need to. All my life expieriences have made me who I am today, and will mould who I am tomorrow.

    15. I feel great, ergo, I am great. That was easy.

    16. This does not apply to me and my obvious by now narcissistic personality disorder. As I am never wrong and great at everything.

    17. I despise the use of arbitrary and capricious standards used my mental health so called professionals, to tell us how WE should think and feel and judge ourselves and others by what or what did not happen in our past.

    I had a great childhood, shit adulthood, but I'll survive it, no one made me do anything I never wanted to do and every mess up I made, I don't regret.

    It's not my parents fault, it's not anyone's fault.

    It's simple, it's called living life.

    Love Cookie xxx

  • Love it Cookie...made me smile!!!!

  • Hi, i have thoughts all day long and they are the same, 1 is , that i will never be the person i was two years ago. 2 ,i constantly spend the day, trying to focus on the day, and look outwards, but find it hard, and there fore keep asking myself why can i not . focus. these thought go over and over, i end up very stressed and feeling physical ill after a time . Are these anxious thoughts ? if so what do they come under in your list .



  • Great question Bonnie. "I'll never be the same person I was 2 years ago" Sounds like regret orientation, it could also be unfair comparison as well.

    I do not know anybody that is the same person they were 2 years ago, and I am certainly not the same person. But I feel it is perhaps more about what that thought means to you. There seems to be a real sense of loss for you?

  • yes, like, i have lost me the person i was, i dont feel the same, i ask myself, is it because i am not doing the things i did two years ago, like work, go shopping, out for meals, or is it because from the time i get up until bed , i have anxiety attacking me, i always seem to be wanting me back, and my life as it was. How do i deal with these thoughts, to help myself.



  • Hi Bonnie,

    Patience and understanding...easier said than done.

    One trick, no technique, that I ask people to try is best friend thinking. It's not something I came up with, it is a recognised technique.

    We are very often our own worst critics. We tend to be a lot harsher on ourselves than we would be if a friend, colleague, or even a complete stranger if they were going through the same trials and struggles that we are going through.

    Take time to give yourself credit for the small everyday tasks that everyone else takes for granted. Take a note of your thoughts, actually write them down. Sometimes we get overwhelmed by our thoughts...they seem to snowball out of our control.

    Try to STOPP...yes I spelt stop with 2 p's, but there is a reason.

    When you are worried or anxious about a situation...try these 5 steps...STOPP

    S - Stop

    T - Take a breath...or 2 or 3 if it helps.

    O - Observe - What am I thinking, reacting to and feeling in my body?

    P - Pull back - Put it into perspective. Is this fact or opinion? How would someone else see this? What would my best friend say?

    P - Practise what works - What's the best thing to do for me, for others, for this situation?

    Hope this helps a little.

  • I'd love you to try and unravel my brain. I'm past help though unfortunately! Interesting post ...

  • Hi there, there is nothing more that enjoy than watching people unravel and understand themselves. I can ask the questions, but ultimately it is you that has all the answers.

    As for "I'm past help", I've never met anyway who wasn't able to make progress. There may not have been as much movement as they hoped, and it may not have happened as quickly as they would have liked. But the key is to patient with yourself, even when the world and those around you seem to want to rush ahead. If they are desperate to get to the future...let them. We all walk at different paces.

    Take care

  • This is interesting and I ticked off 7 on that list that I do. My own CBT psychologist gave me a similar list but not quite so long. I think I will print this off and try and read it often so I can begin to realise I need to change my thought pattern, ( have done to some extent but am not quite there yet), to try and live life without the fear, (phobia), that I have.

    Thanks for sharing this, Julie xx

  • I'm glad you found it interesting. There is certainly more than 1 thinking error list, and some that are a little shorter and combine some of the errors. I'm a great advocate for letting people play with the tools and worksheets and finding the way that works best for them. After all, it is the client that is the most important person in the therapy room. I let the people I work with know that whilst I know about CBT tools, principles and models, they are the experts on themselves. I can only work with what I am told. I can ask the right questions (and sometimes the wrong ones), but I am 100% reliant on the person that sits opposite me.

    Thanks for your kind comment.

  • Thanking you for posting this I'm looking forward to reading it properly I haven't time now just skimmed over.

  • Your welcome, and if you have any questions, and I'm around, I'll always try to hel answer them.

    Take care.

  • The list is very interesting. I guess we all do some of those things some of the time but if the negativity escalates too far we tip the seesaw and come down with a bang.

    You mentioned your facebook page, Lion13 - Is it a public page? Can you give details? I use facebook a lot so I'd be interested to see it if it's "open".

  • Thanks Blorengia. We all do them, I do them and I'm fully aware of them, but our thoughts are automatic so it's difficult/impossible to stop them. Knowing that there is such a thing as a thinking error and that our thoughts are not always facts can be very helpful. It helps give us permission that it's okay to challenge or question or thoughts, and it tends to be when we don't challenge our thoughts and just believe them that we, as you put it, tip the seesaw.

    The page is a public page, it's not a forum, but I tend to post little phrases every now and again, along with articles that may relate to mental health, or useful organisations or websites that I think might be helpful.

    You are more than welcome to take a look

    Thanks again

  • Thank you so much lions for the list. I shall keep it to refer to when needed. I do nearly everything on the list!!

    Thank you again.

    Bev xx

  • "Nearly everything"...must try harder!!! ;-)

    I'm glad you found it helpful.

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