What are cognitive distortions?
Cognitive distortions are distorted thinking patterns that can negatively impact our mental health. These distorted thoughts often stem from negative thinking, and they can lead to emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem (Rnic et al., 2016).
One of the most common cognitive distortions is all-or-nothing thinking, where someone sees things in absolute terms without considering any gray areas or middle ground. This type of distorted thinking can be harmful, leading to extreme thoughts and behaviors, such as feeling like a failure when one makes a mistake or seeing others as completely good or bad.
Therapists can use Cognitive Distortions PDF worksheets to help individuals recognize and challenge these distorted thought patterns. These worksheets provide a range of exercises to help individuals become aware of their irrational thinking patterns and how to challenge them.
By using Cognitive Distortions PDF worksheets, individuals can develop healthier thinking habits, leading to improved mental health and well-being. They can also more effectively manage their stress and anxiety levels and build better relationships with others.
Identifying cognitive distortions
Recognizing our cognitive distortions is essential in understanding and managing them. Some common cognitive distortions include (Harvard Health Publishing, 2022):
This is when we apply one negative experience to all aspects of our lives. For example, after a bad job interview, someone may think they are terrible at interviews and will never find a job.
This occurs when we focus only on the negative aspects of a situation and ignore any positives. For instance, someone who receives mostly positive feedback on a project may only focus on one negative comment.
As mentioned earlier, this is when we see things in black and white without considering any shades of gray. It can lead to extreme thoughts and behaviors, such as giving up completely after making one mistake.
Jumping to conclusions
This distortion involves making assumptions without sufficient evidence. For example, someone may assume their friend is mad at them without asking or finding out.
This occurs when we take responsibility for things not in our control. It can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, even when they are unwarranted.
Effects of cognitive distortions on mental health
Cognitive distortions can hurt our mental health and well-being. They can lead to negative thought patterns, which can contribute to emotional disorders like depression and anxiety. These distorted thinking patterns can also affect our self-esteem and overall mood (Rnic et al., 2016).
For example, someone who constantly engages in all-or-nothing thinking may feel like a failure when imperfect, leading to low self-worth and feelings of inadequacy. This can also perpetuate a never-ending pattern of negative thinking and self-fulfilling prophecies.
Cognitive therapy options, cognitive restructuring, and new mood therapy focus on identifying and challenging these distorted thoughts to improve overall mental health. These therapies often use tools like the Beck Depression Inventory to assess thought patterns and track progress.
How does it work?
Our free printable Cognitive Distortions PDF template provides exercises for common cognitive distortions such as overgeneralization, mental filtering, and all-or-nothing thinking. Here's how to get started with the worksheet:
Step One: Get a copy of the PDF
Download the Cognitive Distortions PDF template using the link provided on this page or from the Carepatron app. You can also get a copy from our resources library.
Step Two: Discuss with your client
Explain the various cognitive distortions and how they can lead to irrational thought patterns. Tell your client that this form is designed to help them identify and challenge these distortions.
Step Three: Complete the exercises
Work through each exercise with your client, helping them think through each scenario and recognize if their thoughts are distorted. Please encourage them to develop realistic alternatives that could help challenge any irrational beliefs they may have.
Step Four: Review the results
Once complete, review the worksheet with your client and discuss their findings. Help them understand any patterns they may have observed and guide them on challenging these irrational thoughts in the future.
Step Five: Create an action plan
Together, create an action plan for managing any distorted thoughts that come up in the future. This should include strategies and techniques such as positive self-talk, guided imagery, or mindfulness exercises to help adjust their thinking when necessary.
Step Six: Follow up
Follow up with your client to see how they are progressing in challenging their thought patterns. Please encourage them to continue using the Cognitive Distortions PDF as needed.
Cognitive Distortions PDF example (sample)
We have created a Cognitive Distortions PDF example illustrating how various exercises can help challenge your client's distorted thinking patterns. It also exhibits how our free and fully digital template works in practice. You may view the sample here or download the PDF copy for reference.
When would you use this template?
This template is best used as a supplement to other forms of therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It can also be adapted to fit any therapeutic approach with minimal effort. Alternatively, you can use this handy Cognitive Distortions Worksheet to:
Educate clients on the dangers of irrational thinking
The Cognitive Distortions PDF template is a fantastic tool to educate clients on the dangers of irrational thinking and how they can take steps to challenge them. The template empowers clients to cultivate healthier and more balanced thought patterns by providing practical exercises.
Help clients become aware of their thought patterns
This worksheet helps clients become more aware of their thought patterns, allowing them to identify distorted ones and then work to challenge and replace them with more rational thoughts.
Develop healthier thinking habits
This template encourages clients to develop healthier thinking habits by providing evidence-based strategies for challenging cognitive distortions. This can ultimately lead to improved mental health outcomes and a better quality of life.
Treating cognitive distortions
Several forms of therapy can help individuals challenge and change their distorted thinking patterns. Here are two of the most common cognitive therapies (Chand et al., 2023; CBT Cognitive Behavior Therapy, n.d):
Developed by psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck, this therapy focuses on restructuring an individual's thought patterns through self-awareness and challenging negative thoughts. The goal is to identify and replace distorted thoughts with more realistic and positive ones, leading to improved moods and behaviors.
New mood therapy
This form of therapy also utilizes cognitive restructuring techniques but emphasizes the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By identifying and addressing negative thought patterns, individuals can learn to cope with emotions more healthily. Additionally, this therapy encourages self-compassion and acceptance of one's opinions and feelings.
In addition to these therapies, individuals can also work on identifying their opinions and beliefs about themselves and the world around them. This self-awareness can help recognize cognitive distortions and allow for more accurate and positive thinking.
Benefits of free Cognitive Distortions PDF template
This free worksheet is invaluable for any healthcare professional with clients struggling with irrational thinking. It has a range of benefits, including:
It's completely digital and easy to use
Our free template is digital and ready to be downloaded instantly. It's also easy to use, making it ideal for busy healthcare professionals who don't have time to create their worksheets.
It provides evidence-based strategies
The Cognitive Distortions PDF template offers practical, evidence-based strategies for challenging cognitive distortions that can help your clients improve their mental health outcomes.
You can customize the template to fit the needs of your client. This could include adding in their examples or tracking progress over time.
It helps clients gain insight into their thinking
The template helps clients recognize their irrational thought patterns and how they impact them. This insight can help them develop better coping strategies and healthier responses to challenging situations.
It promotes self-efficacy
Clients can regain control over their thinking by challenging cognitive distortions and improving their mental health outcomes. Encouraging this kind of self-reflection helps promote feelings of self-efficacy, which is essential for long-term well-being.
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Chand, S. P., Kuckel, D. P., & Huecker, M. R. (2023, May 23). Cognitive behavior therapy. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470241/
CBT Cognitive Behavior Therapy. (n.d.). CBT for Cognitive Distortions. https://cogbtherapy.com/cbt-for-cognitive-distortions
Harvard Health Publishing. (2022, May 4). How to recognize and tame your cognitive distortions. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-to-recognize-and-tame-your-cognitive-distortions-202205042738
Rnic, K., Dozois, D. J., & Martin, R. A. (2016). Cognitive distortions, humor styles, and depression. European Journal of Psychology, 12(3), 348-362. https://doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v12i3.1118