Is your thinking style affecting your mood?

Something that we talk about in CBT therapy, is the way we think about things. There are particular perspectives, or “thinking styles”, that can detrimentally affect how we feel, and can result in us feeling depressed, worried, and unsatisfied in life if they happen often. 

I have made a list of thinking styles that I commonly see in therapy. Take a look through to see if any feel familiar.


Black and White - or ‘All or Nothing’ can’t see the balance or middle ground, so you may be thinking ‘either I do it right or I’m not doing it, and if I make a mistake then it’s ruined.’ There is either/or, but no grey area!


Over-Generalising – you may be drawing broad conclusions or seeing a pattern based on one event: ever hear yourself saying “why does everything always go wrong?”


Prejudiced Brain – this can be quite a rigid internal voice that only pays attention to certain types of ‘evidence’ to fit a negative perspective, discarding anything that doesn’t fit the perspective, and never checking the facts to see if it is accurate. 


Disqualifying the Positive – do you hear yourself saying “that doesn’t count” when you’ve done something well or something good happens? Discarding the good things can make you feel very deflated.


Jumping to Conclusions – do you assume you know what others are thinking? Or predict how things will turn out? Coming to conclusions based on ‘what if?’ thinking rather than the facts of what is happening.


Catastrophising – when you go from A, to Z, instantly blowing things out of proportion, and focus on the worst-case scenario. 


Mental Filter – are you only paying attention to failures without seeing your successes? 


Emotional Reasoning – do you ever hear yourself saying “it feels like that person is putting me down” and thinking that therefore, they must be, or similar? You might be assuming that because you feel something, it must be true, however feelings are not the same as facts.


Should and Must – talking to yourself using “should” or “must” phrases can put unnecessary pressure on you and leave you feeling guilty and like you’ve failed. Are you pushing yourself to achieve unreasonable standards or expectations?


Mental Planning – trying to be prepared for every possible eventuality, imagining through them in your head while it takes you on the emotional rollercoaster as if it were real! And leaving you worn out, tense, and less resilient for what ever does come along. Does all this mental preparation really help?


Personalising – assuming that when something happens it is your fault, or responsibility, even when it may not be. You may blame yourself totally when there are other factors involved in a situation, or even when you have had no influence.


Part of CBT therapy is about learning to recognise and challenge thinking styles that affect how you feel, so that you can develop more flexibility in your thinking and improve your well-being.