Ten Common Thinking Patterns that Feed Depression, Anxiety, Worry and Stress

Ten Common Thinking Patterns that Feed Depression, Anxiety, Worry and Stress

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Learn to recognise and challenge these 10 thinking patterns before they send you spiraling into depression, anxiety, worry and stress.

1. All-or-nothing.

At the core of perfectionism is the tendency to evaluate ourselves in terms of absolutes and nothing in between – good or bad, winner or loser. In this situation, not being able to do both – complete my project and keep up with other work – pointed to not having achieved the “perfect situation.”

2. Overgeneralisation.

Believing that if something bad happened once, it will happen over and over and over. “I did it again,” the thoughts that reinforced the belief it will always be this way – unable to manage and prioritise my work.

3. Mental filter.

The tendency to focus on one negative aspect of a situation while ignoring all other positive evidence. In spite of having completed the project, my focus was solely on the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.

4. Diminishing the positive.

Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count.  “I did well on the presentation, but that was just luck.”

5. Jumping to conclusions.

Automatically jumping to negative conclusions without any basis for it. The immediate assumption here was that “I’ll never be able to catch up,” even though I always have in similar past circumstances.

6. Catastrophising.

Expecting the worst case scenario to happen.  The tendency to magnify our mistakes and weaknesses while minimizing our successes and strengths. The heightened sense of failure for not being able to keep up obscured my abilities and skills to overcome this and any other challenges.

7. Emotional reasoning.

Looking at life through painful eyes where everything looks bleak and dark. Once the wheels of distorted thinking were set in motion, everything I needed to do to get caught up appeared daunting and impossible.

8. Should statements.

The useless mind-noise resulting from being disappointed with ourselves and the world, reminding us of what we could’ve, should’ve, or would’ve done differently. “I should’ve tried harder to keep up.” “I must do all of this to catch up.” These were the thoughts that began popping into my head.

9. Labeling and mislabeling.

The constant labeling and mislabeling of ourselves in a self-deprecating manner. Once trapped in this way of thinking, the usual self-loathing terms to devalue myself showed up—loser, not smart enough, can’t do anything right.

10. Personalisation.

Feeling responsible and guilty when there’s no reason for it. Even though I had a valid reason to do what I did (postpone other work), I blamed myself and felt horrible for finding myself in the situation I was in.


Everyone thinks in this manner at one time or another.

But for those with depression, chronic worrying, it’s a way of life, with each distortion feeding and supporting the others, keeping us in a constant state of emotional turmoil.