9 cognitive distortions of depression you should know about

Although the origin of depression is multifactorial, cognitive distortions are one of the ingredients that have the most weight in its origin. Do you want to know how they act?

The cognitive distortions of depression are like mental filters that invite us to see, interpret and feel the world in a negative way, loaded with sadness and without hope. There are those who point out that it is not clear which comes first if the depressive disorder itself or those adverse thoughts that reinforce that ashen and harmful approach to well-being.

Although more and more people talk about mood disorders, we still do not know everything about them. Depression continues to be a stranger capable of taking us to a very delicate personal crossroads. What we think and how we think about it can end up being the architects of our mental prison.

This psychological condition is the result of a whole multifactorial network in which the influence of different variables is integrated: from our genetic predisposition to environmental and social factors, those that are beyond our control.

Knowing the skeleton of depression, understanding some of its psychological aspects is always helpful. Let’s delve into one of its areas today: cognitive distortions.

Young people deal more than ever with states of high mental exhaustion that need to be addressed. 

Types of cognitive distortions of depression

We have to talk more about depression, anxiety, sadness, that irritability that does not go away, and, in short, about mental health. It is not easy to determine why they appear. However, it is essential to know how to detect those mechanisms that build the structure of a depressive disorder.

Research at the University of Western Ontario (Canada) said that cognitive distortions understood as negative biases in thinking, are a vulnerability factor for depression. However, we should not take them as the only and exclusive variables that promote the development of this disorder.

In reality, the mood and our feelings are the fuel that ignites negative and exhausting thoughts. That corrosive discomfort and that irritability that traps us without knowing why they are the ones that shape the ” I am worth nothing”, “nobody trusts me” or “why try if it is not worth the effort”, and so on.

Knowing these thought filters, such as cognitive distortions in depression, allows us to understand this condition much better.

1. Emotional reasoning: everything is wrong!

Emotional reasoning is a psychological process by which we interpret everything that happens to us as we are. For example, if we go through a time with a low mood, we meet someone and they are delayed, we are likely to interpret it as: “they are delayed because they do not want to meet me”.

By not being able or not knowing how to manage emotions, the brain weaves traps. We limit ourselves to processing things in an emotional and non-objective way.

2. The all or nothing thought: “you are with me or you are against me”

Another of the cognitive distortions of depression is dichotomous or all-or-nothing thinking. This causes reality and all its events to filter into the extremes: “either things turn out well for me or things turn out badly. And if they do it wrong… It’s the end of the world ”. Seeing things categorically and in absolute terms defines a very rigid thought tending to suffer.

3. The disqualification of the positive: the blind mind to the hopeful

When we talk to a person with depression we realize something very concrete. They are unable to value the positive or hopeful. They are not capable of becoming aware of their virtues, of their skills. Any pleasant thing that happens to them they underestimate it, any advance they minimize it. 

4. The anticipation of fatalistic conclusions

The mind works differently when it is dominated by discouragement, anguish, discomfort … It not only interprets each fact from an emotional and negative valence point of view. Furthermore, you lack patience and anticipate unsubstantiated conclusions.

If they are waiting for an answer to an exam, job interview, or medical diagnosis, the conclusion for them will always be fatalistic. This filter of negativity leaves no room for doubt and even less for hope. Tomorrow is always loaded with storm clouds.

5. Overgeneralization: when everything is bad

Juan has been betrayed in his last relationship. Now he thinks that everyone is going to disappoint him in the same way. Elena has lost her job for a month and feels unable to start looking for another job. He thinks that everything is lost, that it is no longer valid for the labor market.

Overgeneralization is one of the most common cognitive distortions of depression when extrapolating a negative experience to all future circumstances. In that approach, there is no hope.

6. The “should”, a useless form of suffering

In 1976, cognitive psychologist Aaron Beck put together a whole theoretical architecture around cognitive distortions. Later, in the 80s, David Burns described them and made them more popular in various publications, such as the book Feeling Good: The New Therapy for Depressions.

Thus, one of the most common cognitive distortions of depression is that in which the classic “shoulds” appear. Let’s give examples: “my brother has not come to visit me yet, with all that I have done for him I should be more grateful”; “I should strive to be more efficient because they are surely thinking badly of me.”

These types of cognitive enclaves are rigid beliefs about how others or oneself should and this is a very dangerous way to undermine our self-esteem and well-being.

7. The fallacy of justice: “the world should be the way I want it!”

The fallacy of justice is recurrently integrated into the depressive approach. It describes that hidden need for things to be as one wants and wishes. As this does not always happen, the person leads to disappointment after disappointment and, little by little, to mood disorders.

8. Personalization: “it’s all my fault”

If my partner has had a bad day at work, it’s my fault because I was talking to him about my problems yesterday. If my son has fallen playing soccer, it is my fault for not having been on top of him… Few things are more harmful than carrying realities that do not belong to us on our own shoulders.

9. The obsession with labeling and devaluing myself

This is another example of how thoughts can act as traps into which you are trapped (and hurt) on an ongoing basis. If I make a mistake in something and I say to myself that “ you are worthless and less ” I am acting like the worst of my enemies. If I look in the mirror and despise what I see, devaluing myself, I will be turning into someone very dangerous for my own well-being. It is not the right thing to do.

We must bear in mind that all these cognitive distortions of depression do is intensify the suffering. Almost without realizing it, we end up trapped in a psychological prison in which emotions, thoughts, and behaviors conspire against us. Let us ask for help, let us act as soon as possible.

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