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10 Ways Distorted Thoughts Can Tank Your Mental Health

Anyone can have distorted thoughts, including me and you. I know I’ve had them for as long as I can remember. Such distortions are also a global problem (Jaffri, Mukhtar, and Rizvi, 2021). So, let’s delve into how distorted thoughts can tank your mental health.

 

Disclosure: This article contains links to my Unwanted Life Shop. Read my full disclosure here.

 

 

What Are Distorted Thoughts?

 

Distorted thoughts, also known as cognitive distortions and cognitive biases, are unhealthy thinking patterns that can negatively impact your mental wellbeing. According to Grinspoon (2022), they are internal mental filters used to process information that can twist your perception of reality, leading to unnecessary stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem. These distorted thoughts make it easier for us to feel bad about ourselves.

 

According to Kramer, Vaudroz, Ruggeri, and Drapeau (2013), distorted thoughts can affect our perception and assessment, which can cause problems with our interpretative functioning and create maladaptive schemas (better known as core beliefs). Support for this comes from Psych Central, which states that there is a link between distorted thoughts and core beliefs, where core beliefs can cause distorted thoughts.

 

For someone like me with a mood disorder like borderline personality disorder (BPD), this can be especially true, as all-or-nothing thinking is a common trait of someone with BPD.

 

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How Distorted Thoughts Can Tank Your Mental Wellbeing

 

Fuels negative emotions

Distorted thoughts often lead to negative emotions like anger, sadness, guilt, and shame. These emotions can become overwhelming and interfere with our daily life.

 

Self-blame

Having distorted thoughts can lead to us blaming ourselves for everything that goes wrong, even if that’s not the case (Jaffri, Mukhtar, and Rizvi, 2021). This self-blame then fuels our worsening self-image and leaves us open to depression.

 

Creating a poor self-image

When we constantly engage in negative self-talk through distorted thinking, we eventually develop a poor self-image. This can lead to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, which can lead to depression.

 

Reinforce beliefs

Distorted thoughts are often a result of maladaptive core beliefs, and they work to reinforce such core beliefs. They create what is essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s because if our distorted thoughts are left unchecked, they become our truth (Solara Mental Health).

 

Self-esteem

Just as distorted thoughts can affect our self-image, they will also chip away at our self-esteem and confidence (Friedman, 2023).

 

Hinder healthy relationships

Distorted thoughts can create communication problems and strain our relationships with others. For example, if you constantly assume people are judging you, you might withdraw socially or become overly critical. This is how I developed my extremely harsh inner critic, as a result of knowing everyone was judging me for the colour of my skin. Isn’t bullying and racism great?

 

Increased stress and anxiety

Distorted thoughts often focus on worst-case scenarios and negative possibilities. This constant worry and rumination can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and burnout.

 

Disengagement

According to Jaffri, Mukhtar, and Rizvi’s (2021) study, having distorted thoughts can lead to people putting in less effort and having a greater tendency to give up, using this as a negative coping strategy.

 

Depression

As Shickel, Siegel, Heesacker, Benton, and Rashidi (2020, October) pointed out, if distorted thoughts are left unchecked, people experiencing these thoughts risk becoming stuck in a negative feedback loop. This can cause such people to develop distorted realities, leading to further issues, such as anxiety and depression.

 

Evidence shows a connection between depression and distorted thinking, which can be either a cause of depression or a symptom of it (Jaffri, Mukhtar, and Rizvi, 2021). This is also supported by Friedman (2023), who states that distorted thoughts are irrational and inaccurate ways of thinking, which can lead to mental health issues.

 

Self-deprecating humour

Rnic, Dozois, and Martin (2016) study found that distorted thoughts caused an increase in self-deprecating humour, which we use to mask our difficulties with identifying and talking about our feelings (Psychology Today).

 

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Examples Of Distorted Thoughts

 

All-or-nothing thinking

Seeing things as being either one or the other end of the spectrum, ignoring everything in between such as thinking that if I don’t get this perfect grade, that means I’m a complete failure (Rnic, Dozois, and Martin, 2016).

 

Overgeneralisation

According to Friedman (2023), distorted thoughts can turn an isolated incident into an infallible rule, where one failed test is turned into us being a failure your whole life.

 

Filtering out the positives

Focusing only on the negative details of a situation and ignoring the positive aspects, even though the positives likely outweigh the negatives. As Sumo Cyco said in the interview, it can be easy to focus on one negative comment or one dislike, ignoring the mountain of positive comments and likes.

 

Mind reading

Assuming you know what others are thinking, often negatively, such as, “They must think I’m stupid for making that mistake”.

 

Feelings are facts

Believing that your emotions are facts. For example, “I feel like a burden, so I must be one”. Although we won’t have evidence for this, because we feel it, we assume it’s true.

 

If you’d like to learn more about some of the other distorted thoughts, then check out my article ‘What We Know About Thinking Errors‘ by clicking here.

 

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Putting Distorted Thoughts In Their Place

 

Identify your distorted thoughts

A big part of dismantling our distorted thoughts is simply being aware of them and paying attention to how we are framing things for ourselves (Grinspoon, 2022). So if you’ve got this far, you’ve already taken the first step. When you experience a negative emotion, ask yourself what thoughts led to that feeling.

 

Challenge the distorted thoughts

Once you identify a distorted thought, it’s time to challenge its validity. Ask yourself if the thought is realistic or helpful. Are there alternative explanations for the situation? Another way to do this could be to use one of the thought challenges, reframing or putting your thoughts on trial.

 

Replace with positive thoughts

Instead of dwelling on the negative thought, replace it with a more balanced and realistic one. To help identify a positive replacement, the thought challenge, reframing, can be useful here.

 

Seek professional help

A therapist can teach you cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques to identify and challenge distorted thinking patterns. CBT can equip you with tools to develop healthier and more balanced thinking patterns.

 

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My Distorted Thoughts Workbook

 

My distorted thoughts (cognitive biases) workbook outlines 15 distorted thoughts that any of us can develop, outlining what they are and providing you with a tailored way to tackle each specific cognitive bias.

 

snippet of the front cover of my cognitive biases workbook

 

You can find my workbook in my shop by clicking here.

 

Unwanted Life Shop button that takes you to the self-esteem workbook listing for the Unwanted Life Shop

 

Summary

 

You are not your thoughts. If we were, the negative intrusive thoughts we all had would make us all very messed up. You have the power to challenge and change negative thinking patterns, to stop your distorted thoughts from ruining your quality of life. Remember, developing a more balanced thinking style takes time and practice, so be patient with yourself.

 

By recognising distorted thoughts and actively working to challenge them, you can improve your mental wellbeing and cultivate a healthier, more positive outlook on life. But if you need it, there’s always professional help available.

 

As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with distorted thoughts in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, you can sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, click the red bell icon in the bottom right corner to get push notifications for new articles.

 

Lastly, if you’d like to support my blog, then there are PayPal and Ko-fi donation payment options below. Until next time, Unwanted Life readers.

 

 

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References

 

Friedman, H. H. (2023). Overcoming Cognitive Distortions: How to Recognize and Challenge the Thinking Traps that Make You Miserable. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/375375435_Overcoming_Cognitive_Distortions_How_to_Recognize_and_Challenge_the_Thinking_Traps_that_Make_You_Miserable.

Grinspoon, P. (2022). How to recognize and tame your cognitive distortions. Harvard Health. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-to-recognize-and-tame-your-cognitive-distortions-202205042738.

Jaffri, A. B., Mukhtar, S. A., & Rizvi, S. Z. H. (2021). Indigenous mental health perspective in cognitive distortions: a cross-sectional study of coping strategies, cognitive distortions and depression in university students. Nat Nurture J Psychol1, 45-54. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Nature-Nurture-Journal-Of-Psychology-Nnjp/publication/364340598_Indigenous_Mental_Health_Perspective_in_cognitive_distortions_A_Cross-Sectional_Study_of_Coping_Strategies_Cognitive_Distortions_and_Depression_in_University_Students/links/634c27359cb4fe44f32e1f45/Indigenous-Mental-Health-Perspective-in-cognitive-distortions-A-Cross-Sectional-Study-of-Coping-Strategies-Cognitive-Distortions-and-Depression-in-University-Students.pdf.

Kramer, U., Vaudroz, C., Ruggeri, O., & Drapeau, M. (2013). Biased thinking assessed by external observers in borderline personality disorder. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice86(2), 183-196. Retrieved from https://serval.unil.ch/resource/serval:BIB_3D25AECB513F.P001/REF.pdf, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23674468, and https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2044-8341.2011.02056.x.

Rnic, K., Dozois, D. J., & Martin, R. A. (2016). Cognitive Distortions, Humor Styles, and Depression. Europe’s journal of psychology12(3), 348–362. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v12i3.1118 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4991044.

Shickel, B., Siegel, S., Heesacker, M., Benton, S., & Rashidi, P. (2020, October). Automatic detection and classification of cognitive distortions in mental health text. In 2020 IEEE 20th International Conference on Bioinformatics and Bioengineering (BIBE) (pp. 275-280). IEEE. Retrieved from https://arxiv.org/pdf/1909.07502.

8 thoughts on “10 Ways Distorted Thoughts Can Tank Your Mental Health

  1. Very informative post! Distorted thoughts can really take a toll on mental health. I’ve experienced them myself, and learning to challenge these thoughts and replace them with more positive and realistic ones has been incredibly helpful for me. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth it!

    • Distorted thoughts have been with me for as long as I can remember, but if you don’t let them have their way, then you can protect your wellbeing. Thanks for sharing

  2. It’s alarming how easily cognitive distortions sneak into our thought patterns, wreaking havoc on our well being

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