Our thoughts are very much affected by our moods, and they aren't always giving you the full picture. When we're going through a low period, such as feeling depressed or anxious, we're more vulnerable to thought distortions. Thought distortions are what we call patterns of thinking that are inaccurate, unhelpful and often not a true reflection of reality.
What can be helpful is to recognise some common types of thought distortions, especially if you often find yourself with negative or intrusive thoughts! Learning to recognise when you're having negative thoughts is a big step towards reducing the hold they have on you, and how much of an impact they have on your ability to function.
Here are a few common thought distortions you might have experienced:
Black & White Thinking
Sometimes called all or nothing thinking, this refers to when you aren't able to see the middle ground in a situation or person, instead seeing it or them as 'all good' or 'all bad'.
"Should statements" are often used to compare your current situation with an ideal yet unrealistic situation, which ends up negatively affecting your self-esteem as you get caught up in the perceived failure of not living up to your 'should statements'
Jumping To Conclusions - Fortune Telling
Believing that you already know how a series of events will play out. This influences your behaviour to act as if this is the only outcome. Often this increases the chances of the outcome actually occurring, reinforcing your belief that you can sense these things before they happen.
Jumping to Conclusions - Mind Reading
Assuming you know what someone is thinking based on perceived evidence such as body language or speech patterns, but no actual confirmation. This can lead to anxiety over what you believe someone else thinks about you.
Minimising The Positive
Brushing off any positive comments you receive or accomplishments you make as no big deal, or something that anyone could achieve. This is sometimes accompanied by patterns of maximising the negative.
Maximising The Negative
This is when you focusing or fixate on a mistake or negative event, experiencing distress as a result. The negative event can be something that only you perceived to be negative rather than an actual negative event.
Personalisation is when you behave as if you were responsible for events or situations that were actually not within your control or influence.
While this isn't an extensive list, it's a good start if you are looking to understand your thoughts a little bit more. These concepts are explored further in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which can be really helpful for managing some of the thoughts that show up when you're dealing with mental illness. If you don't have access to therapy (it's not exactly cheap) there are a lot of worksheets and resources online that can help you learn methods to manage your thought patterns on a daily basis.
These types of thought distortions can affect your mood from day to day and for prolonged periods of time. f you're finding that your thoughts fit these patterns more often than not - or if these thoughts are affecting your ability to function - it might be time to consider reaching out for support.
The Mental Health Foundation has a thorough list of resources available throughout New Zealand here. You can also speak with your GP, or call 1737 to speak to a trained counsellor at any time.