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Common Patterns of Distorted Thinking in Depression

  1. Catastrophizing - making mountains out of mole hills
  2. Mind reading - making assumptions about how others feel without checking it out
  3. Overgeneralization - making broad "always" or "never" statements
  4. Selective abstraction - focusing on one small detail and interpreting the entire experience by that detail
  5. Personalization - excessively blaming yourself for events over which you did not have complete control
  6. "Should" fallacies - ex. "I should be able to shake this feeling of depression myself"
  7. Minimization - reducing an important event into something less important (making mole hills out of mountains)
  8. Black and white thinking

Source: Adapted from: Dreyfus, J.K. The treatment of depression in an ambulatory care setting. Nurse Practitioner, 13, p. 14.



Typical Dysfunctional Attitudes in GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)

  1. "I have to do a perfect job in pleasing my guests or my reputation will be ruined."
  2. "If somebody criticizes my work, it means that he or she thinks poorly of me."
  3. "If my readers don't like this particular story, I may lose my job."
  4. "If my clients are dissatisfied with me, they will talk about it and it will ruin my reputation."
  5. "If I don't make a concerted effort to get my fellow workers to like me, then they will shun me and I won't have any friends."
  6. "If people are angry at me, it means I won't have any friends."
  7. "If I expose any weaknesses, people will cut me up."
  8. "Therefore, I have to appear perfect and invulnerable at all times."
  9. "If I start to experience anxiety or other dysfunctions, it will be apparent to other people and they will reject me -- consider me weak and neurotic."
  10. "I can't afford to experience any anxiety at all because once it starts, the anxiety can escalate into a full-blown panic attack."
  11. "If I experience anxiety and other dysfunctions, I will be unable to perform the task (complete the examination or continue with a speech)."
  12. "My transgressions will be unforgivable; mistakes will be unforgettable; and errors will be irreversible."


Nancy Dutton Potter, Ph.D.

Phone: (703) 674-8929
Easy Access from Route 7
205 East Hirst Road • Suite 103 • Purcellville, VA 20132

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