That dreadful list of cognitive distortions (or why my latest visit to the therapist was incredibly helpful)

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Hello everyone! How are you doing? I hope all of you are well and are thriving. Today’s post is another mental health-related one, as some aspects of my treatment have changed and I just decided to share them with you. Let’s get right to the post!

Most of you know that I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and that I’ve been taking meds and seeing a psychiatrist to treat it. What most of you do not know is that I changed therapists about two months ago, as my old one had finished her training and is now charging more than twice the price I was paying her. Seeing as I find the price too expensive, I elected to stay at the hospital and take the service of another resident. The therapist may be different, but the price will be the same, which was a good thing in my book.

Truthfully, however, I had reservations about this change. My previous therapist and I were compatible. I was able to be honest with her and share my frustrations and she was genuinely willing to listen. Who knows how compatible my new therapist and I will be? How will she deal with the things I have to share? And so I came to my first meeting with my new therapist, dreading what changes will happen to a previously favorable relationship.

And true enough, this therapist is different from my old one. She would interrupt me when I was speaking, she would not allow me to vent, and she would always find immediate solutions to the problems I would share. Needless to say, our first two meetings, for me, were a disaster. My frustration got to the point where I decided to contact my previous therapist to avail of her services, never mind how expensive they are, just because I missed being listened to. I just wanted to vent.

And so I came to my third consult with this new therapist with apprehension. During this time, I had hit another depressive state; I was riddled with negative thoughts and I felt stuck. I wasn’t doing anything productive and I was always at home. I don’t have a job, I can’t keep my friends, and I just felt that my future was dismal. I felt hopeless and useless.

When I opened up to her, however, I was surprised that she was able to stay quiet and listen. I shared my anxieties and she let me finish before telling me what I was feeling and why I was feeling them. The negative thoughts are called cognitive distortions, which means that it’s my brain’s way of twisting a neutral event to a negative one. It made more sense the more she discussed it, and it was the first time in our consultations that I genuinely believed that she wanted me to be better. She shared with me the 10 cognitive distortions, which I’ll post here:

  1. All or nothing thinking: You look at things in absolute, black and white categories.
  2. Overgeneralization: You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. Mental Filter: You dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives.
  4. Discounting the positives: You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities “don’t count”.
  5. Jumping to conclusions: (a) mind-reading: you assume that people are reacting negatively to you when there’s no definite evidence for this; (b) fortune-telling: you arbitrarily predict things will turn out badly.
  6. Magnification/minimization: You blow things way out of proportion or you shrink  their importance inappropriately.
  7. Emotional reasoning: You reason from how you feel: “I feel like an idiot, so I must really be one.”
  8. Should statements: You criticize yourself or other people with “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts”.
  9. Labeling: You identify yourself with your shortcomings. Instead of saying, “I made a mistake”, you tell  yourself, “I’m a jerk”, or “a fool,” or “a loser”.
  10. Personalization and blame: You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and overlook ways that your own attitudes and behavior might contribute to a problem.

I noticed that I adhere to most of these distortions, which is enough proof that I need help in recovery and that I must work hard to stop myself from thinking negatively. She also gave me a copy of the ways to untwist these distortions so that I can truly see the negative thoughts for what they are: detrimental but useless.

It’s surprising how negative my perspective is about myself and life, to be quite honest.  The therapist was quick to point out how most of what comes out of my mouth is negative, and I don’t even notice it! And what I thought about her way of treatment was negative too! There’s so much I have to work on to heal and be okay. But, let me start being positive now: I am hopeful for my recovery. I will work hard to rid myself of negative thoughts and I know I will succeed. 

Most of the changes in our lives are, in foresight, seemingly negative. Just as my interactions with my new therapist, I was quick to view it in a negative light when in fact, our interactions are actually helpful for my recovery. You just have to be patient and stay positive, as any change in life is bound to be a good thing, even it does not initially look that way.

What about you guys? What changes in your life seemed bad at first but is actually extremely helpful or enlightening?

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