Negative thinking is any type of thinking that leads to negative consequences. It can be hard to recognize negative thinking sometimes. You may only recognize that your life isn’t working. Cognitive therapy is designed to help you recognize your negative thinking and through thought review change your thinking to something healthier.
Identifying your negative thinking is the first step towards change. These are the common types of negative thinking. There is some overlap among them. But giving each a name makes it easier to remember them.
All-or-nothing thinking is the most common type of negative thinking, and it is a common cause of anxiety, depression, and addiction.
All-or-nothing thinking leads to anxiety because you think that any mistake is a failure. You worry that any mistake may expose you to criticism or judgment. Therefore you don’t give yourself permission to relax and let down your guard.
All-or-nothing thinking can lead to depression because when you think you have to be perfect, you feel trapped by your own unrealistic standards. Feeling trapped is one of the known causes of depression.
All-or-nothing thinking can lead to addiction because anxiety or depression feels so uncomfortable that you may turn to drugs or alcohol to escape.
Negative thinking not only leads to unhappiness, it is also an obstacle to self-change. When you think in an all-or-nothing way, any change feels like a big deal. You can’t see the small steps, and you don’t have the energy to take big steps, therefore you feel stuck. (Reference: Cognitive Therapy Guide)