Cognitive Distortions: Overgeneralization


Cognitive distortions are viewed as patterns of thought that reinforce a person’s negative thoughts or emotions. These distortions can interfere with how someone perceives a conversation, event or relationship. The idea is that the way a person feels affects how they think and if someone’s thinking is distorted, it can feed a negative outlook further increasing depressive and anxious symptoms. They often feed into each other and it is normal for a person to be able to identify more than one as affecting how they perceive a situation.

Overgeneralization is one of the 10 cognitive distortions as identified by psychiatrist Aaron Beck and David Burns, (n.d). We discussed in the last blog about mental filters feeding into over generalizing due to the preoccupation with one negative event. When someone over generalizes, they see that one negative event in their life as a never ending pattern. They may say or feel things like, “nothing good ever happens to me” or “everything is always terrible.” People often feel very depressed or anxious when they feel that nothing good will ever happen.

While it may be challenging to stop this way of thinking, it is possible. As with mental filter, it is important to begin to acknowledge the positive things that have happened and continue to happen in your life. Start a gratitude journal and write down one thing or person you are thankful for each day. Often it can help to think of a time when you felt things weren’t going your way. Did things change? Did things get better? Understanding that while you may be in a negative situation, your life hasn’t “always” been this way may help you see the light the you need to move forward.


Written by Marie Thompson, MA



10 Forms of Cognitive Distortions (Faulty Thinking). (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2016, from

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