By: Kaleigh Nobbe, Clinical Intern

In many cases, our thoughts can be deceiving, faulty, or even unhelpful. These distorted thinking patterns cause negative feelings, which can enhance some issues ranging from depression and anxiety to concerns such as eating disorders. It seems counterintuitive to tell someone not to trust what is happening in their brain since our brain was wired to help us survive, find social connection, and problem solve. However, our brain was also designed to make connections between thoughts, feelings and behaviors, even if the connection doesn’t really exist. Instead of acknowledging the coincidence, we often choose to make meaning out of the happenings in our lives. Here is a list of some of the more common cognitive distortions:

All-or-Nothing Thinking:

  • Things are seen only in extremes – it is either fantastic or horrible, you’re perfect or an absolute failure.


  • This tends to happen when you make a rule after a single event and is usually accompanied by words like “always” or “never.” In some ways this can feel like a superstition where I won’t watch a game because they “always” lose when I watch, regardless of how many times I have actually watched the team win.

Mental Filters:

  • Mental filters can feel like pessimism in some cases because, regardless of all the positives, the mental filter only focuses on the one negative comment, dismissing all other information.

Discounting the Positive:

  • This distortion looks a lot like the mental filters, but the difference is that the person acknowledges the positives and disqualifies them instead of embracing them. This could look like a friend thanking you for being so kind by helping them move on your day off. Instead of believing they are grateful for your service, you may think they are thanking you out of obligation instead of telling you how they really felt about your presence.

Jumping to Conclusions:

  • Mind reading is when you think someone is going to react in a particular way, or you believe someone is thinking things that they aren’t. This is sometimes also referred to as fortune telling where you predict events will unfold in a particular way, often to avoid trying something difficult.


  • Magnification is exaggerating the importance of shortcomings and problems while minimizing the importance of desirable qualities.

For more information and examples of Cognitive Distortions, including more distortions you may be experiencing, consider visiting

You can also explore your thoughts with this Automatic Thought Record.

If you would like to learn more about how cognitive distortions may be impacting your life, reach out to Owens & Associates at (847)854-4333 for a free 15-minute consultation.