Unhelpful Thinking Styles

I am in the Clinic at Burwood at the moment as my suicidality is high and following a self-harm episode. My psychiatrist has decided that I am depressed so is changing my antidepressant and mood stabiliser so hopefully that helps a lot with the lack of energy and appetite and wanting to sleep all the time. I also have almost no motivation so I think he’s right. It’s coinciding with a particular incident I am dealing with in therapy around the first time my Father abused me and how devastated I felt when that happened. I fell into a depression when that happened so I think I am re-experiencing that episode.

Today in Group we discussed Unhelpful Thinking Styles. It was very apt for me. I am sure many of you experience unhelpful emotions so I thought I would share what I learned with you.

When a person experiences an unhelpful emotion (eg depression or anxiety), it is usually preceded by a number of unhelpful self-statements and thoughts. Often there is a pattern to such thoughts and we call these “unhelpful thinking styles”. One of the things we have noticed is that people use unhelpful thing styles as an automatic habit. It is something that happens out of our awareness. However, when a person consistently and constantly uses some of these styles of thinking they can often cause themselves a great deal of emotional distress. This information sheet describes a number of “unhelpful thinking styles”. As you read through then, you might notice some thinking patterns ad styles that you use consistently. Some of theses styles might sound similar to one another. They are not meant to be distinct categories but to help you see if there is a kind of pattern to your thoughts.

Mental Filter

This thinking style involves a “filtering in” and “filtering out” process – a sort of “tunnel vision.” focusing on only one part of a situation and ignoring the rest. Usually this means looking at the negative parts of a situation and forgetting the positive parts, and the whole picture is coloured by what may be a single negative detail.

Jumping to Conclusions

We jump to conclusions when we assume that we know what someone else is thinking (mindreading) and when we make predictions about what is going to happen in the future (predictive thinking).


This involves blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong or could go wrong, even when you may only be partly responsible or not responsible at all. You might be taking 100% responsibility for the occurrence of eternal events.


Catastrophising occurs when we “blow things out of proportion” and we view the situation as terrible, awful, dreadful and horrible, even though the reality is that the problem itself is quite small.

Black and White Thinking

This thinking style involves seeing only one extreme or the other. You are either wrong or right, good or bad and so on. There are no in-betweens or shades of grey.

Shoulding or Musting

Sometines by saying “I should …. “or “I must…” you ca put unreasonalbe demands on yourself and others. Although these statements are not always unhelpful (eg “I should not get drunk and drive home”), they can sometimes create unrealistic expectations.


We we overgeneralise we take one instance in the past or present and impose it on all current or future situations. If we say “You always… ” or “Everyone….” or “I never….” then we probably over generalising.


We label ourselves and others when we make global statements based on behaviour in specific situations. We might use this label even though there are many ore examples that aren’t consistent with that label.

Emotional Reasoning

This thinking style involves basing your view of situations or yourself on the way you are feeling. For example, the only evidence that something bad is going to happen is that you feel like something bad is going to happen.

Magnification and Minimisation

In this thinking style, you magnify the positive attributes of other people and minimise your ow positive attributes. It’s as though your’re explaining away your own positive characteristics.

Source: Centre For Clinical Intervention cci.health.wa.gov.au

For more information on CPTSD and other issues visit our YouTube Channel

If you need support or would like to connect with like-minded people join our Private and Closed online Facebook Group for Child Abuse Survivors and those with CPTSD. Click here to join


  1. Im very sorry you’re going through this right now. I hope things stabilize for you soon. It’s really striking how clearly-written and detailed your blog posts are, in the midst of this crisis. I appreciate your thoughts on cognitive distortions.

    • Hi Joanna Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate them. I find writing very helpful when I’m in crisis and doing the blog really gives me structure and purpose. All the best Erin

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.