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UNHELPFUL THINKING STYLES #SoteldoTherapy #ThinkingTraps #CBT


Have you ever come across someone who always seems to have unhelpful self-statements and thoughts? You have, right? Well, experiencing unhelpful emotions like anxiety or depression is the primary reason as to why that person is having such thoughts. According to mental health experts, we do have patterns to such thoughts, and they are commonly referred to as the ‘unhelpful thinking styles’,

Even thought human behaviour is unpredictable, researcher realized that almost everyone uses unhelpful thinking styles. It’s like an automatic habit that they can’t get rid of, and the funny thing is, we are all very aware that they exist. Therefore, if you’ve noticed you have these thinking styles, you shouldn’t panic or assume that you already have a mental health issue. However, if you’ve had a diary to help you track your thoughts and you just realized that you consistently or constantly use them, you should immediately reach out to a doctor or therapist for help. Using unhelpful thinking styles for a long period of time can cause you emotional distress.

We have drafted this information sheet to help people like you figure out what unhelpful thinking styles are. We hope that by the time you’re done going through it, you will notice some of the patterns of styles that you consistently use, and try to avoid them. Also, you’ll quickly realize that some styles sound similar. All you need to know is, they aren’t meant to have distinct categories.

Mental filter

This thinking style is like a tunnel vision. What we mean by that is, it is a ‘filtering in’ and ‘filtering out’ process in that the person only focuses on the less important bit of a situation, ignoring the rest. Let’s look at an example:

Nancy just got all her college examination result back. When they opened them, she realized that she dropped in performance in one of the units, but still improved here general score. This made her sad and she couldn’t understand what she did wrong seeing as she work hard in all the units.

In this situation, Nancy refuses to see the positive part of the situation, which is an improved general score, and instead focuses on that one unit that she failed. In her head, she’s thinking she failed terribly, and no one is going to tell her otherwise.

Jumping to conclusions

We have all been into situations where we find ourselves jumping into conclusions instead of thinking things through. We are always quick to assume that we already know what someone else is thinking, even before they tell us what’s on their mind. We’ve also tried to predict the future just because we think the information that we have in our hands, is sufficient to predict the outcome. Mind reading and predictive thinking are all unhelpful thinking styles according to mental health experts.

Should-ing and Must-ing

The word “should” and “must” have to be used very carefully. When you say “I should…” or “I must…” you’ll be putting unnecessary pressure on yourself or others. But that doesn’t mean that they will always create unrealistic expectations. For example, you are allowed to say, “I must not sleep late because I have to wake up the kids and take them to school tomorrow.”


By over generalizing, you’ll be taking an instant that happened in the past into the future. This is wrong because what you’ll be doing is basically imposing that instant on all present or future situations. So anytime you find yourself saying “I never…” or “everyone” or “you always…,” you’re probably over generalizing something.


You are a human being and not a superhero. It’s important you remember that. So, anytime something goes wrong or when someone messes up, you should not always blame yourself. Sure, there will be days where you’ll be held accountable but it shouldn’t be a pattern. No one should be 100% responsible for every happening in their immediate environment.


You’ll be labeling yourself, friends, family, or other people around you, if you keep on making statements based on a behaviour in a specific situation. You might find yourself using these labels even though we subconsciously know there are other examples that aren’t consistent.


This occurs when you blow a small thing out of proportion. You will be describing the situation as horrible, dreadful, or terrible, when in essence, it’s just something that can be quickly fixed.

Emotional Reasoning

This is a thinking style where the individual keeps on comparing things that happen around them to something that they experienced in the past. For example, he or she will feel like his or her friend’s marriage failed just because they are friends, and most of his or her other friends have gone through a divorce.

Black and Whitening

In his or her world, there’s no grey area. Everything is in black and white. For instance, if the law says it’s criminal to consume certain drugs or possess them, if the police catches you with some, you should not try to convince the court that you were framed. Even if you were framed, the law is still the law and you had them in your possession.

Magnification and Minimization

You’ve obviously tried to magnify the positive attributes that you see in other people and minimized yours, right? And we know you have because this is something that many people acknowledge doing. It’s almost as if you don’t think you can achieve what other people have achieved.

Raquel Soteldo, RP(Q), CCC, ABA, MA, PMP

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