10 Unhelpful Thinking Styles You Should Avoid at All Costs

Here is your exclusive guide to the top 10 known unhelpful thinking styles!

The brain is the thought-processing factory in our human body, and on an estimate, it produces more than 6,000 thoughts a day and some unhelpful thinking styles1. While some of these thoughts are helpful, a huge proportion of them are unhelpful and can give a negative aura to your persona.

And to be honest, nobody wants that—neither you nor the friends of your group. Soon you start feeling left out, even in a crowd, due to these unhelpful thinking styles. Consequently leading to an even more digressed mental health condition.

And so you need to know what these unhelpful thinking styles are and how they affect you!

What are Unhelpful Thinking Styles?

These are the unpleasant thoughts that stemmed from some unpleasant events or an unhelpful emotion. Needless to say, the disposition of these thoughts is irrational and unsubstantial.

The thing is, even though you sometimes know that somewhere in the back of your head that these are unhelpful thinking styles, you can’t help it other than letting these thoughts thrive in the throes of your brain.2

These thoughts are sometimes also called ‘cognitive distortions.’

Reasons for These Cognitive Distortions

Although the list can be very long, some of the main causes for these unhelpful thinking patterns are:

  1. Back-to-back failures.
  2. A significant trauma one has been through.
  3. Neurodivergence is like bipolar disorder.
  4. As a coping mechanism to deal with unpleasant life events.

Some Unhelpful Thinking Patterns

Listed below are the unpleasant emotions that are preceded by unhelpful thoughts. Look out for these patterns and root them out of your system, as they do nothing other than sucking the life out of you and leave you to be just the shell of the person you were.

Unhelpful thinking styles
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash / Copyright 2021

1. Mental Filter

It is a filter that particularly filters out all the positive aspects of the situation, giving you tunnel vision to focus on the negative aspects.

The mental filter works to make you discount all the positives and form your negative perspective for it too. Like, “I got an A in the last two quizzes but got a B in this one. How can I get a B on this one?!”

You consider the worse about the situations, disqualifying the positive and saying, ‘they don’t matter.’

2. Jumping to Conclusions

Making a mountain out of molehill suits best this one of the unhelpful thinking styles.

You observe the surface of the situation and then form a whole story of your own in your brain, without sufficient evidence or even bothering to crosscheck with someone else.

This is one of the cognitive distortions in which you start eliminating the situations like, “I know this is what he is thinking. I know.”

Jumping to conclusions
Photo by That’s Her Business on Unsplash / Copyright 2021

You have to accept that you don’t know everything! So sit back and think for a second before jumping to conclusions.

3. Catastrophizing or Labeling

To label a situation as theworst possible situation’ and something so huge and terrible that there is no way out from it, when in reality what it is, is just a need for you to calm down and think of it as just a situation. Every situation has a way out of it!

It is one of the unhelpful thinking styles where you start thinking in the line of, “I lost my job, now I’m going to be homeless and die of hunger.”

4. Black and White Thinking

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Image by Džoko Stach from Pixabay

Placing people or situations in all or nothing categories leaves no place for a middle ground or shades of grey. It is either black or white.

For example, “Either I will secure the first rank in that exam, or I am a failure.”

5. Mind Reading

Reading others’ minds and assuming you know what others must be thinking and predicting their actions based on it. And that prediction includes negative reviews for yourself.

For example, “I should ask him for a date, but that’s a no-brainer. Why would he be interested in a girl like me?” 

Give yourself a break.

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Photo by ALAN DE LA CRUZ on Unsplash / Copyright 2021

6. Shoulding and Musting

It is one of the unhelpful thinking styles where after an event has passed, you start chastising yourself for your action and thinking of the alternatives you should have done in the place of what you did actually.

This is just over-analyzing your every move when the ship has sailed, and nothing could be done about it anymore. It eliminates the positive energy from inside you, leaving you in a turmoil of emotions.

7. Overgeneralization

Forging a pattern out of one experience and applying it as a rule to every future and present event. This process is one of the unhelpful thinking styles in which you rule out one single event as part of the decree.

For example, “I can’t believe you. You didn’t do it the last time.”

8. Emotional Reasoning

This process includes basing your perspective of the events on the way you are feeling. Generally, letting your negative feelings guide you to the viewpoint of the event.

For example, “My mom yelled at me. She is a very bad person.”

Your negative statements affect your personality in numerous ways; that’s why never label yourself as good or bad.

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By: desdemona72/Shutterstock

9. Magnification and Minimization

It is one of the unhelpful thinking styles, where a person exaggerates or maximizes the positive attributes of some other person, almost painting him as the God himself. While purposefully looking down at his positive traits.

It is like the sole ambition of that person is to prove that they are not worth anything in his life.

10. Personalization

One of the cognitive distortions is where you take the blame for everything bad that has happened to you. Even if you know that what you did was necessary, and you were just partially involved in the whole ordeal, you take the sole responsibility.

For example, “If I had not left home, this robbery would not have happened. It’s my fault.”

One thing that we all need to understand is that:

  1. We can’t control everything.
  2. Not every situation needs to have a defaulter take responsibility.
  3. We can’t take decisions on behalf of others. Wait up and just let things flow for a while.
  4. And it is not necessary to be the ‘hero’ of every story. We are all humans.
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By: GoodStudio/Shutterstock

And these are just unhelpful thoughts taking your precious time, meant to make the best of your life. So take them as just that–mere thoughts. And sideline them before they eat up the liveliness inside of you.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Can Negative Thought Patterns Rise Up?

Past experiences, social and cultural upbringing, as well as cognitive biases, can all contribute to them.

2. What Are the Impacts of Negative Thought Patterns?

These may trigger unfavorable feelings, undesirable actions, persistent stress, and physical health issues.

3. How Can I Detect My Unhelpful Thinking Styles?

Maintain a diary of your thoughts, focus on being mindful, and ask for input from others.

4. How Can I Alter My Unproductive Thought Patterns?

Reframe them in a more beneficial way, confront them with evidence, and engage in alternate thought processes.

To read more articles, click here.

  1. Williams, Chris, and Anne Garland. “Identifying and challenging unhelpful thinking.” Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 8.5 (2002): 377-386. ↩︎
  2. Wehrenberg, Margaret. The 10 best-ever anxiety management techniques: understanding how your brain makes you anxious and what you can do to change it (second). WW Norton & Company, 2018. ↩︎

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf


Akanksha Raj

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