In my earlier blog post about mental health and automatic thoughts, I talked about three ways in which we can get stuck in anxiety or depression from automatic thoughts that are “all-or-none thinking,” “mental filter,” and “jumping to conclusions.” As a psychologist at Legacy Counseling Service in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, I frequently help people look more closely at their thoughts to help them improve their anxiety and depression and overall mental health. Today I want to talk about three more ways of thinking that can really keep us stuck in a cycle of anxiety and depression. Even if you aren’t struggling with anxiety and depression, recognizing and challenging your automatic thoughts is generally good for your mental health!
3 More Common Types of Anxiety and Depression Automatic Thoughts:
- When we use emotional reasoning we assume that because we feel a certain way then it must be true. “I feel anxious so I must not be good at this” or “I feel sad….no wonder no one wants to hang out with me.” Emotional reasoning is a sly little sucker because our emotions tend to be strong and we feel them physically…making them hard to ignore and making it hard to challenge the thoughts. Here’s a quick video on more about emotional reasoning
- Labelling is when basically when we call ourselves, or someone else, names, or focus on negative characteristics. “I didn’t get up to exercise today…I’m so lazy!” “I can’t believe you forgot again! Your such an idiot!” Labeling is similar to using disability first language that I talked about in my blog about what Finding Dory can teach us about physical disability, depression, and anxiety.
- With this type of thinking, we make broad conclusions based on one or two instances. Or, we see a pattern based on a single event. “Nothing good every happens to me” or “No one ever agrees with me!” Here’s a nice video about overgeneralizing.
How Does A Psychologist Work with THESE Anxiety and Depression Thoughts?
When a Psychologist hears “Emotional Reasoning” frequently from a person, they might ask the person to think about the quantity and quality of the evidence that supports their emotional reasoning. For example, if a person thinks “I feel like a failure” then one way of thinking and challenging this thought is to ask the person to convince others that they are, indeed, a failure. Would others agree with the evidence that the thought “I feel like a failure” is true?
When a psychologist hears “Labelling” as a persistent way of viewing oneself or others, they help the person make distinctions between a behavior and an entire person. This helps the person be more aware of one or two mistakes that they, or someone else, made and separate this from making an overall critical judgment of themselves or others. Another way a psychologist can help someone improve their mental health when the person labels is by helping them exam their behavior given the situation. For example, “you said you were lazy because you didn’t exercise yesterday…let’s look at what else happened yesterday and see if your thoughts are really true.” We might discover that this person woke up early for an early morning meeting, worked a 10-hour day, went to the grocery store, made dinner, and then bathed his children. Given those circumstances the label of being lazy doesn’t fit.
When a psychologist hears “Overgeneralizing” frequently from a person these techniques can be helpful: 1) Are there situations in when this behavior, feeling, or outcome doesn’t happen? How would you describe those situations? What makes those situations different? 2) Would other people view the situation in the same way as you? Why or why not? 3) Keep track of the positive things that are happening over the week and let’s look at the patterns that we see. Here’s a quick video (I’ll warn you that “thoughts” is spelled incorrectly throughout the vide) on other techniques a psychologist might use to help people with anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems:
When you get into the habit of making time to understand your anxiety and depression, you can make huge changes to your mental health and quality of life. Check out my blog post about the value of making time to worry and you can read more about why taking time to evaluate your thoughts is important.
Dr. Leedy is a psychologist at Legacy Counseling Service in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. She helps people from Tulsa and the surrounding communities improve anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. She offers face-to-face and online counseling. Check out her website at www.legacycounselingservice.com to learn more about how she can help you!