Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are thought processes that are not in line with reality. Unfortunately, people with anxiety disorders and depression tend to struggle quite a bit with these distortions. The ironic part is that the distortions always seem to be negative, never positive.

In doing an online search for a list of distortions I came across a blog called Therapy Worksheets which had a link to Lynn Martin's website, which has a good list of cognitive distortions. Early in my therapy, my psychologist handed me a similar worksheet of distortions. I read through them and thought, "Huh, how about that, I think I do some of them." We discussed the list for a bit and then went on to a discussion of ERPs. I did not realize at the time how significant the awareness of distortions would become to the improvement of my mental health. Session after session, my doctor would make me list the cognitive distortions I was laboring under. I started to realize that my thinking was really skewed.

One of my biggest struggles is with mind reading. We all have things that we are good at, and one of them for me is "reading people," so to speak. I can often tell what people are thinking by simply looking at body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, or even what specific words someone chooses to use. It's not that I'm looking for this stuff, it just sort of pops out at me when talking to someone. This ended up getting me into a lot of trouble with my OCD. I started to think that all kinds of people were thinking negatively about me. It affected a lot of my relationships. My doctor finally helped me to understand that, yes, I may be good at reading people, but not when it comes to something involving me. Anything involving myself is so emotionally charged with anxiety, that I tend to misinterpret signals others are giving off (and it is always negative, of course). It took over 2 years of therapy before I truly believed and understood this concept. Once I did however, it was real freedom.

Now, when talking to others, I try really hard to assume that any "off" signals I'm receiving are either misinterpreted by me or that the person's negative expression may have absolutely nothing to do with me at all. Unless someone is clearly upset with me, I try not to "mentally involve" myself with it. This is a work in progress as I still struggle with it a bit. It takes lots of time and practice to change thinking that has been in place for over four decades. It has been worth the time and effort however, as I no longer constantly feel that others have negative thoughts about me.

Do you struggle with cognitive distortions? What are your most troublesome distortions?


  1. Sunny,

    Yes, indeed, I suffer from cognitive distortions. I printed out the list and could see myself quite often.

    I tend to overgeneralize, practice mind reading and fortune telling, catastrophize, magnify/minimize, use emotional reasoning, had a lot of shoulds, label/mislabel, and personalize.

    I have a lot to consider!

    One of the biggest problems for me is emotional reasoning. I put a lot of emphasis on feelings.

    I also tend to label myself a failure or an idiot if I make an error, instead of just thinking, oh, I made a mistake. Let me fix it and move on.

    And, boy, do I personalize. I think I am responsible for things that happen, the way other people feel, the happiness of other people, etc. I had to laugh at the example for personalizing: "A woman behind you at a store knocks over a display, and you apologize for possibly contributing to the incident." That describes me to a tee. That's not healthy thinking, because NO ONE has that kind of power.

    Lots of food for thought here. I am getting reminded all over the place that I put too much emphasis on thoughts and feelings and not enough on behavior and the choices I DO have.

    Thanks for sharing this, Sunny. And good for you for working on the mind reading and seeing progress. That's great!

    Hope you're having a good day,


    1. Hi Tina! I did have a good day yesterday, thank you. I'm glad you found this helpful. I know it sure was for me. I do a lot of emotional reasoning too. I have a harder time noticing when I do that one though. My doc usually has to point that out to me. It's funny, just yesterday someone almost mowed me down when I was walking and I apologized to him! Oh boy. I guess I still have some work to do. Ha ha ha

      Thanks for sharing about yourself. It was interesting to see that we both struggle with similar distortions. I hope you have a good day today too!

  2. HI 71&Sunny, just wanted to drop you a note to say thank you so much for sharing your story here. I came across it by looking for blogs by other OCD sufferers, and I just want to say that I was blown away when I read this post - it is just like me! Just the fact that you're able to be so healthy and optimistic, makes me want to be more like that too. Have you heard of the site http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/social-work-ceus-ocd - there's some great information there, if you're interested. And just thank you again for sharing your story! It makes me feel less alone.

    1. Hi Cheryl! You're post made my week. I'm really glad you found the blog and that it was helpful. I'm also really pleased you feel less alone. I've been very blessed and have received a lot of support and it's my hope that I can spread some of that support to other people like yourself.

      I've not heard of that website but I will be sure to check it out.

      I definitely have not always felt so optimistic as I do now. In fact for a while I had no hope at all of ever getting better. CBT and ERP are a lot of work, but they are effective. I always doubted that until I saw the results for myself.

      Again, I'm glad you "stopped by." Best wishes with your own recovery!

  3. Yep I sure do struggle with cognitive distortions.

    Some of the worst for me are:

    *All or nothing thinking
    *Mind reading
    *What if thinking
    *Not counting the positive (obvious)

    This is one of my favorite videos by Therese Borchard. I also love David Burns books (which she is discussing):


    1. Ah yes, all or nothing thinking, another favorite of mine. I've only become aware of that in the last few years. Sometimes, I don't even have any idea that there is another scenario unless someone points it out to me and then I think, "Duh, why didn't I think of that, it's so obvious!"

      I'm on my cell phone now, but when I get a chance I will look at the video. Thanks for sharing the link. Thanks also for commenting, very interesting.

  4. I have a hard time thinking outside the box and it usually takes someone else pointing out to me that I'm involved in a cognitive distortion before I realize it :-)

  5. Hi Sunny! Oh my goodness, YES. Totally. Catastrophizing especially. I mean, I could construe an innocent whisper to mean that the person hated me, thought I was stupid, thought I was annoying. My cognitive-behavioral therapist would ask me, "What COULD people be thinking about that?" and then follow up with, "But what are they PROBABLY thinking?" and the two had a very wide gap in between them!!!

    BTW, just added a blogroll to my site ... and your website is on there!

    1. Hi Jackie!

      Thanks so much for adding me to your blog roll. I really appreciate it.

      I definitely struggle with catastrophizing too. I always assume that the most horrible thing will happen if something goes wrong. Imagine my surprise when something does go wrong, but it doesn't end up being the horrible experience that I was sure it would be.

      Thanks for your comment.

  6. I'm fantastic at mindreading! LOL. I'm glad you feel that you're getting better at some of your cognitive distortions. It's amazing how when you're not in that moment of anxiety - later on - you can sometimes see how irrational you were being/thinking.

    1. You're not kidding, Pure O! Sometimes I can't believe how clear things look later on compared to how they looked when I was in the middle of an anxiety attack. My psychologist has had to remind me over and over that no one can think clearly when anxious. As I've been getting better I have less anxiety, therefore my thinking has gotten much clearer. It seems to be a snowball effect. Which also means as it gets worse, it can snowball there too. Ugh.