My Anxious Thoughts

Sometimes our moods and worries can get so out of hand that the way we think becomes distorted.

“I worry all the time, even while others can enjoy their lives. My thoughts are always racing, and there always seems to be so much going on inside my head. I always feel tense, and I frequently cannot concentrate. Sometimes it is so bad that I can feel my heart jump out of my chest. I’m nauseous, and I feel like if I don’t “get out of here” I might die.”

Here are 10 ways of thinking that let you know that you may need help changing your thoughts.

Keep in mind–these thoughts are errors
and a sign that you may not be functioning at your best.

All-or-nothing thinking:

You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.


You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

Mental filter:

You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.

Disqualifying the positive:

You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

Jumping to conclusions:

You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.

Mind reading:

You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and don’t bother to check it out.

The Fortune Teller Error:

You anticipate that things will turn out badly and feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.

Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization:

You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”

Emotional reasoning:

You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it; therefore, it must be true.”

Should statements:

You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

Labeling and mislabeling:

This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, “He’s a damn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.


You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible.

From: Burns, David D., MD. 1989. The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

If you find yourself thinking in extremes…we can help you stop today….

Make your life better by changing the way you think.