3 Common Thinking Traps of Anxiety
For individuals with anxiety, having irrational, anxiety-provoking thoughts is a very common (and annoying) aspect of anxiety.
These thinking traps tend to be negative, self-focused, and rather distorted. However, for the individual experiencing these thoughts, they feel 100% real and logical.
It’s easy to find ourselves “trapped” within the powerful grip of these worrisome thoughts. Before we know it, our thoughts are running wild and we’re stuck in a debilitating, self-sabotaging cycle of irrational self-talk.
Here are three common thinking traps for people who experience anxiety:
1. Always/Never Thinking : Also known as overgeneralizing, always/never thinking focuses on one or few situations and generalizes them to other situations. Examples: “I’m always so awkward,” “I never do well on Chemistry tests,” “My friends never invite me to parties.”
2. Mind Reading : This thinking trap assumes we know what others are thinking about us. These mind reading assumptions are usually negative and false. Examples: “He must think I’m stupid,” “I know they don’t like me,” “Everyone thinks I talk too much.”
3. Fortune Telling : Fortune telling is predicting the future and assuming this prediction is correct. These predictions are usually irrational and extreme. Examples: “I’m going to bomb this interview,” “This date is going to go horribly,” “No one is going to talk to me at this party.”
How often have you found yourself going on and on with endless irrational thoughts, then suddenly finding yourself feeling incredibly anxious and down on yourself? While these thinking traps can be easy to fall into, with practice, it’s possible to take control over our thoughts. The first step is self-awareness.
Understanding that our thoughts often cause us to feel anxious, then making a conscious effort to be aware of our specific irrational thoughts, is an important first step in learning how to manage anxiety. This is the crux of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — exploring how our thoughts affect our feelings and behaviors. CBT is an effective, evidence-based treatment for anxiety that many anxiety therapists have knowledge in.
After building awareness of these negative, automatic thoughts, we can then “catch” these thoughts in the act and begin to challenge the thoughts with more rational thoughts. For most people who experience anxiety, this seems like a nearly impossible feat; but with patience, intention, and practice, you can learn how to take back control over anxiety-provoking thoughts and begin to successfully manage anxiety. I’ll be writing more about challenging and replacing negative thoughts in my next blog post.