The 10 Cognitive Distortions That Cause Anxiety

Here are the 10 Cognitive Distortions that cause anxiety.

A cognitive distortion is defined as an error in your thinking that makes a situation seem worse than it actually is. I learned this from a book called “Feeling Good” by David Burns.

Becoming aware of the distortions you are susceptible to will help you identify anxious thoughts more quickly.

In the book Feeling Good, Dr. Burns identifies 10 of the most common Cognitive Distortions he’s seen in his patients. Listen to these and see if any or all of them seem true for you. At the end of the video I’ll tell you where you can find a nice PDF print out of the cognitive distortions so you can review them on your own later.

Watch this video to hear a description of each cognitive distortion:

#1 – All or Nothing Thinking.

You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. Examples are “I’m a total loser”.

#2 – Overgeneralization.

You see a single, negative event as a never ending pattern of defeat. So if you ever catch yourself saying “I always mess things up” or “I never get what I want”, you may be falling into overgeneralization.

#3 – Mental Filter.

You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened. One example is “It rained and ruined the whole weekend.” The weekend may have actually been fun for the most part, but because you focus on one detail you can’t see the good parts.

#4 – Disqualifying the positive.

You reject positive experiences saying they "don't count" for one reason or another. Often in response to compliments or achievements.

A common example is “That was just a fluke. I usually do poorly.”

This one allows you to have positive experiences but still see yourself negatively.

#5 – Jumping to Conclusions.

You arbitrarily jump to a negative conclusion that is not justified by the facts of the situation. The two types of this are “Mind Reading” and “Fortune Telling”.

An example of mind reading is “He didn’t say hi to me, so he must not like me.”

An example of fortune telling is “I know I’m going to fail.”

#6 – Magnification and Minimization.

This is where you Exaggerate the significance of errors and view your achievements as small and unimportant. You make a small error, and treat it like it’s a big one.

An example is “I gave bad directions. What a terrible mistake.”

#7 – Emotional Reasoning.

You use your emotions as evidence of the truth. Because things feel negative, you assume they truly are negative.

A common example is "I feel angry, therefore, I must have been wronged."

#8 – Should statements.

You try to motivate yourself by saying “I should do this”. Or “I shouldn’t do that”. Your self talk may also consist of musts, mustn’ts, oughts, and oughtn’ts.

So if you ever nag yourself with thoughts like “I should work harder”, you are experiencing this cognitive distortion.

#9 – Labeling and mislabeling.

Creating a completely negative self image based on your errors. You may also create negative images of other people based on their errors.

It’s an extreme form of overgeneralization with thoughts like “I am an outcast.” Or “She is a witch.”

#10 – Personalization.

This is the source of guilt. You assume responsibility for a situation even when there is no basis in doing so.

An example is “We lost and it’s all my fault.”

So those are the 10 cognitive distortions that cause anxiety. If you found this video helpful, make sure to subscribe and click the like button.

If you want more anxiety relief tips, I have a free guide.

It’s called "The Headfulness Guide to Relieving Anxiety."

You can find that at

It’ll teach you a simple 4 step strategy to relieving your anxiety for good. It’s all infographics so it’s easy to read. It also includes a list of the 10 cognitive distortions I discussed in this video so you can review them on your own.

Again you can get the free guide at

That’s all I have for today. Leave a comment with your most common cognitive distortion. And let’s all try to have, a little more headfulness.