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Mental Health

Mind Traps

Source: BC Partners for Mental Health & Addictions Information, Anxiety Disorders Toolkit

When you have depression, anxiety or other disorders, you often have patterns of negative thinking. For example, you might automatically believe that you’re “never good enough” when one tiny part of a project doesn’t work out the way you planned. These thoughts can make you feel even more depressed or anxious. The negative thinking patterns listed below are common thinking patterns that can contribute to depression, anxiety and other troubling symptoms.

  • All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black-or-white categories. If a situation falls short of perfect you see it as a total failure.

  • Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as “always” or “never” when you think about it.

  • Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of all of reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolours a beaker of water.

  • Discounting the positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting that they “don’t count.” If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well. Discounting the positive takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.

  • Jumping to conclusions: You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion.

  • Mind reading: Without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you.

  • Fortune-telling: You predict that things will turn out badly.

  • Magnification: You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities. This is also called the “binocular trick.”

  • Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are.

  • “Should” statements: You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be.

  • Labelling: Labelling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you attach a negative label to yourself.

  • Personalization and blame: Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control.

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