Stop negative self-talk and thinking by identifying cognitive distortions. Improve mood, reduce stress, feel better. Cognitive Behavioral self-help.

Stopping Negative Self-Talk: Cognitive Distortions


Welcome to Part 2 of the “Stopping Negative Self-Talk” series! If you have not already read Part 1, please do so here. Now, I will be introducing the concept of cognitive distortions and how they can influence our thinking. 

Last time we discussed the four segments of the cognitive-behavioral triangle:

  1. Activating Events
  2. Thoughts/Beliefs about the event
  3. Emotions/physical sensations, as a response to thoughts/beliefs
  4. Actions or behaviors, as a response to these feelings

As you may recall, you filled out your triangle:

Find out how to stop negative #selftalk and be more #confident with the #cognitive triangle on

So, how did it go!?

If you’re like most people, you may have found it a bit difficult to recall or put your thoughts/beliefs into words. This is perfectly normal!

Noticing Thoughts

The truth is, the various thoughts we all have throughout our day often go unnoticed. It is as if we are on autopilot, appraising, judging, perceiving our experiences without taking the time to bring into question our thoughts.

This is why this exercise can be such a helpful method for getting “in-tune” with our thinking and making the necessary adjustments for a more flexible and peaceful mind.

A simple technique that you can use to begin noticing your thoughts is to ask yourself the following question whenever you are feeling anxious, sad, angry, or irritated:

“What was I just thinking about?”

By doing so, you can develop the habit of becoming more mindful of your thoughts, while noticing the power they can have over your emotions.

Cognitive Distortions

When it comes to thoughts, there are different ways that we may exaggerate or distort our thinking. These are known as Cognitive Distortions.

There are many different types of cognitive distortions:

  • All or nothing thinking
  • Overgeneralization
  • Mental Filter
  • Should statements
  • Mind Reading
  • Disqualifying the positive
  • Emotional Reasoning
  • Fortune Telling
  • And many more

For a more comprehensive list of cognitive distortions and definitions, check out this article on PsychologyToday.

Let’s take an example from the above list: Mind Reading.

This particular distortion involves the tendency to assume that you know what someone else is thinking and to take this hunch seriously. Often there is a negative spin in this assumption.

Consider the following example, using the cognitive triangle:

Notice how in this example Sarah’s thought process is distorted by “mind reading” – assuming that she knows what her friend is thinking and why didn’t wave back at her. Another possible interpretation is that Steph didn’t see her or recognize her on the bus.

Stay tuned for the next and final post in this series, where we will discuss how to keep a ‘thought log’ for Identifying and challenging cognitive distortions and negative thoughts.


Further reading:

Over to you

What are some cognitive distortions that you are most familiar with? Share in the comments below!



James Voss, MA, LMHCA

James is a mental health counselor, specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and substance use related issues. James emphasizes the therapeutic relationship with his clients and uses a wide range of techniques to help reduce distress and foster psychological flexibility.

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