Mallory Welsh, LCSW

I work with many clients who struggle with their anxiety. To assess where the client’s anxiety is stemming from, I help them track their thinking patterns, which can allow the client to start changing those patterns. Doing these types of thought exercises can change their emotions, feelings, and actions; this type of intervention is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

It takes a lot of practice to change thinking patterns, and you need to start tapping into your self-awareness skills. If you find that you tend to have negative thinking patterns, step one is to catch yourself when doing it. After catching the thought, check to see if it is negative, accurate, or a beneficial way of thinking. If the answer is no, then change your thinking to a more effective way.

Below are 9 common negative thinking patterns and ways to catch, check, and change them.

All-or-Nothing. This type of thinking is that there is no middle ground, as in no flexibility of partly good or partly bad. Things are either the best thing in the world or an absolute disaster. Attempt to find a middle ground way of thinking if you find yourself doing this.
Only Focusing on the Negatives. When you are only seeing negatives in a situation, try to think that for every negative, a positive can be found. This can help you be more open minded in circumstances.

Overgeneralizations. You make one wrong decision in life, and your life now feels ruined with no way out. Attempt again to find some middle ground. Maybe you made a mistake, but that doesn’t mean the rest of your life is going to be mistake after mistake.

Personalization. It is not always about you! If someone is mad at a situation, that does not mean you were the reason they are mad or upset. It could be something entirely different that doesn’t involve you at all.

Catastrophizing. This is when you go down the rabbit hole with your thoughts thinking the worst-case scenario. You start to make up a completely different story in your head of what is happening versus what is actually the reality of the situation. If you catch yourself doing this, attempt to think, “What is the probability this event will actually happen?” Doing this exercise can help you realize the worst-case scenario is an unlikely event.

Perfectionism. This way of thinking is as simple as it sounds, always wanting to be perfect at everything you are doing. You don’t allow yourself to ever make a mistake, and if you do make a mistake, sometimes you might even shame yourself. If you find that you are doing this, remind yourself, “I’m good enough and everyone makes mistakes.”

Mind Reading. This is when you try to become a mind reader and assume that someone is having negative thoughts about you. Sure, you could be right some of the time, but it is also very likely you are making up a scenario that does not actually represent anything close to what someone was thinking about you. Again, remind yourself, “My thoughts are only thoughts, they do not actually represent the truth of the matter.”

Minimizing. This is when you minimize successful events and maximize your failures. This creates extreme negative thinking. When doing this, remind yourself that for every negative thought, there is a positive thought you can replace it with.

Blaming. This is when you blame your problems on someone else when you may have something to do with creating the problem. When doing this, attempt to practice accountability for your actions.

While this list provides a 9 negative thinking patterns and how to stop them, try to focus on the one(s) that you think will help you the most as you truly know you more than anyone else. Once you identify what works best, try to be consistent with it.

If you are currently struggling with anxiety that is leading you to have constant negative thinking patterns, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.