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How Can I Challenge My Cognitive Distortions?

Cognitive distortions can occur as a result of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Given the commonality of this issue, it’s important to find effective ways to challenge these thoughts. Luckily, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) have provided a variety of effective tools for challenging cognitive distortion. Let’s look at three of the tools that can help you combat these flawed ways of thinking.

Thought Balancing Cognitive Distortions

The most basic tool for challenging cognitive distortions is the CBT tool called thought balancing. Writing out your distorted thought is the first step. If you have more than one to work on, you can use this tool multiple times. However, for the purpose of this exercise, you start with one. After you jot down the distorted thought, you write out a fact-based statement that contradicts the distorted thought. The idea is to replace irrational thought with a more balanced, logical thought.

Checking the Facts

For some cognitive distortions, the DBT tool called checking the facts can help better. To begin with, you choose a belief you want to challenge. Then, you state facts about the topic surrounding the belief. For example, if the belief is “My friends hate me,” you could state facts like these:

  • My friends spend time with me
  • They make an effort to reach out to talk
  • My friends respond when I reach out to them
  • We’ve been friends for [x] amount of time

All these are factual statements surrounding the topic of friends. After stating the facts, you compare the facts to the initial belief. You should evaluate whether or not the facts match your feelings and thoughts. Lastly, you accept or reject the cognitive distortion. Because this is a more complex tool, you can practice it in therapy before engaging in it on your own.

Defining Terms in Your Cognitive Distortions

To use this tool, think about the labels that you put on yourself, other people, and events. You should record these labels in some way so you can read or hear them. After that, you should try to define these labels and terms as thoroughly as possible. Now that you’ve defined the terms, list examples of emotions, events, and characteristics that contradict those labels.

Defining terms uses a combination of CBT and DBT principles. As you work through this process, it’ll be easier to realize that a person or event isn’t defined by one label. Working the process helps break down the cognitive distortion, replacing it with a more balanced view.

Cognitive distortions are a common experience for individuals with mental illness. If you’re struggling with these irrational thought patterns, you can use the tools listed above to help you challenge them. It isn’t always easy at first, but with practice, you’ll get the hang of it. Moreover, you can practice it in individual and group therapies. The Guest House offers these kinds of therapeutic interventions as well as holistic approaches to healing. With our comprehensive care, you’ll find yourself making strides toward recovery. You don’t have to go through this alone. Call us at (855) 483-7800 for help.