Negative Thinking

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.

The Big Four Types of Negative Thinking

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: “I have to do things perfectly, and anything less is a failure.”
  • Focusing on the Negatives: “Nothing goes my way. It feels like one disappointment after another.” A variation is being overly judgmental: “The world is falling apart. I don’t like what I see around me.”
  • Negative Self-Labeling: “I’m a failure. If people knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me. I am flawed.”
  • Catastrophizing: “If something is going to happen, it’ll probably be the worst-case scenario.”

Other Common Types of Negative Thinking

  • Excessive Need for Approval: “I can only be happy if people like me. If someone is upset, it’s probably my fault.”
  • Mind Reading: “I can tell people don’t like me because of the way they behave.”
  • Should Statements: “People should be fair, and when they are not they should be punished.”
  • Disqualifying the Present: “I’ll relax later. But first I have to rush to finish this.”
  • Dwelling on the Past: "If I dwell on why I'm unhappy and what went wrong, maybe I’ll feel better."
  • Pessimism: "Life is a struggle. I don't think we are meant to be happy. I don't trust people who are happy. If something good happens in my life, I usually have to pay for it with something bad."

Consequences of Negative Thinking

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)

External Links

Addictions and Recovery
Alcohol Abuse
Opioid Abuse
Anxiety and Depression
Panic Attacks
Causes of Depression
Mind Body Relaxation

Last Modified: March 1, 2017

Information included: Learn about negative thinking patterns and distorted thinking and how to change them through cognitive therapy and cbt. Also learn how to write a thought review and thought record. Further included is information on cognitive behavioral. Learn the consequences of negative thinking and how it leads to anxiety and depression.