S1E6: Cognitive Distortion: Why you are still depressed and anxious (1/2)

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Transcript for S1E6

Hi, this is Dr. Kim, your host, and dual board-certified psychiatrist for us like this podcast. I just want this to be your safe space and brave space to explore your mental and spiritual health to make sense of it all. And this podcast, we're going to find out together, who you are, what you're capable of, and how you're going to get there. I'm so excited that you're here, and let’s enter this brave space.

In this episode, we're going to be learning about the sneaky mind tricks called cognitive distortions that keep you anxious and depressed. We're going to be separating this topic into two episodes. So in this episode, we're going to be defining cognitive distortions and discuss why we have them, and explore the first four out of eight cognitive distortions. And the next episode, we'll finish with the next four out of eight. And we're going to talk about how we're going to break the chains and trick those mind tricks to get out of this funky mental health cycle. Very exciting, right?

And if this is your second or third time tuning into this podcast, hey, we're basically friends. So why don't you make it official, and subscribe to this episode, so we keep in touch, and you don't miss our next meeting in this brave space? It will mean so much to me, and I hope it is for you. Anyways, let's get back to the episode.

So cognitive distortion is a type of automatic thought. An automatic thought is a knee-jerk reactive thought that comes to you when you're triggered by a situation or perception. Now, if you go to episode number two, we talked in-depth about the cognitive triad. And cognitive triad is a triangle like the relational triangle relationship of thoughts and emotions and behavior. Automatic thoughts are the component of the thoughts. But under automatic thoughts, there's something called cognitive distortions. And cognitive meaning is related to thoughts, and distortion, meaning that is a twisted version of the truth or reality. So essentially, you can understand it as the thoughts that distort reality. So if you go back to the cognitive triad, thoughts affect emotions, right? So if your thoughts are creating a distorted view of reality, and your emotions are based on those thoughts, and 100% of the time, cognitive distortions are more negative than it is, then you have negative emotions. And that leads to negative and unhelpful behavior. And it continues to cycle and that's how cognitive distortions work. So one of my friends told me that there's an Indian proverb that says, the person who has jaundice, everything is yellow to him. And this is a perfect proverb to discuss cognitive distortion. Because how I view cognitive distortion is like a colored lens like glasses that has a colored lens that distorts the true colors of the world around you. So imagine if you have these lenses that have, you know, red color lenses, you're gonna see everything with a tint of red. And if you're wearing multiple glasses, you know, on top of each other, the color that you see are gonna get redder, and redder and redder. Now, remember, Dr. Aaron Beck, he's a psychiatrist that I mentioned in previous episodes, and he described cognitive distortion in a depressed patient like this. To quote, “he, the depressed patient tends to perceive his present future and the outside world in a negative way, and consequently shows a biased interpretation of his experiences, negative expectancies, as to the probable success of anything he undertakes, and a massive amount of self-criticism.” So Dr. Beck is seeing here that cognitive distortion affects not only the present, but even the past and the future; not only how you think of yourself, but also an outside world that sets you up for your behaviors with a biased interpretation. Right. So you have a blindside, and you expect negative things and you expect no success, you only expect failures, and you are just so down on yourself and as negative upon negative, and you'll never climb out. And I wonder if some of you guys are listening to this episode that feels like that is no matter how hard I try, I just stay negative, I just can't get out of this funk. And I'm hoping that we can address some of those issues today.

So why do we have cognitive distortions in the first place? So, Dr. Paul Gilbert is a British psychologist, and in 99, in his article in 1998, an article called “The evolved basis and adaptive functions of cognitive distortions.” He says, “it is suggested that cognitive distortions or natural consequences of using Fast Track defense algorithms that are sensitive to threats in various contexts, especially those of threat, humans evolve to think adaptively, rather than logically.” So let me just kind of break down what he's talking about, despite the fact that cognitive distortions are not logical, true, or real, we go to cognitive distortions because they served the purpose for us to survive, especially in the environment that we were in. So in other words, some of these cognitive distortions and twisted thinking, we saw in our upbringing, like maybe in our parents or siblings, we heard it from how they applied it, and it worked for them. Or also what was said to us about who we are. And also, as we live our life, we experienced certain events, like trauma or disappointments, and it became an acquired skill. So cognitive distortion became acquire stick skill for us to expect certain things in life. So for example, if your parents told you, you're just good for nothing, you're not good at anything. And you heard that enough times, you start to really buy into that label and say, wow, I'm really not good at everything or anything. And imagine that kid growing up, and they, you know, failed on a test. It reaffirms how he's not good at anything and everything, and he's a failure, and then he gets a divorce, it reinforces his understanding, I'm really not good at anything. And I'm, I'm a failure. So life events reaffirm can reaffirm cognitive distortions in our life. But I think it always starts with what we were exposed to, you know when we're younger? And why do we hold on to these cognitive distortions, despite how negative it is, and maybe how untrue it is. And I think is to avoid pain, the pain of disappointment. So sometimes we can think I'd rather just live with I'm not good at anything, than hope that I'm good at something and then get disappointed, or you avoid the pain of confrontation. So I rather just live with, I'm not good at anything, just like my parents said, so that I don't have to challenge them, and prove them wrong, or confront them, or avoid the pain of unknowns, I rather just live with the fact that I'm not good at anything. So I leave my potentials where it is. And I just know what to expect from them myself and not come out of my comfort zone. So essentially, cognitive distortion might have started to protect us to preserve us and to survive you will soon see that, as we're debunking each cognitive distortion, that cognitive distortion prevents us from hoping and prevents us from exploring and prevents us from thriving. So now we're going to dig into each of the cognitive distortions, I picked eight. For a fuller list, you can go to the link in the description box, and to see if any of them applies to you. So you'll notice that a lot of these cognitive distortions, there's a lot of overlap. And I don't want you to get so confused on Oh, which one is this and which one is that? One sentence one thought could have like three or four cognitive distortions and one thought, okay, but the whole point is, is that they work together to paint the picture. So imagine that if you have glasses with a red color lens, and you're seeing through four of them, right, you have four of them on your eyes, the colors get redder and redder and redder. And each cognitive distortion can reinforce each other, just to make that color just that much brighter. So just be aware that there's a lot of overlap. Don't get confused about which one is this thought and which one is that thought. The whole point is, is that we have to recognize each of them and try to challenge that.

Okay, so the first cognitive distortion that I want to talk about is all or nothing thinking. Either you are good at everything. And if you're not good at everything, then you're a complete failure. So the means like great other than as a failure. If your spouse or partner is not happy with you all the time, then you're you have a crappy relationship or you're a crappy person. If one out of three kids is struggling in school, then you're a horrible mother. If your work is kind of stressful, even though other areas in your life are going, okay, then your whole life sucks, right? This all-or-nothing thinking sometimes drove us to work really hard to be good at everything to be that awesome person, who's good at everything and every aspect of life. But what all or nothing thinking actually leads to leads to is a dichotomous view. So all or nothing black or white thinking view of life versus the progress-oriented perspective. So instead of thinking, a or nothing like a or feel, you can accept the Bs in life and Cs in life. And even though you're your partner and you had a fight, right, it doesn't mean that you have a crappy marriage or crappy relationship is just a hiccup all or nothing. Cognitive distortion always leads you 99.9% of the time of feeling like you're a failure. So this is why it doesn't amount to anything positive or realistic. The second cognitive distortion is mental filter filtering. So mental filtering is kind of focusing on one negative attribute and misses the bigger picture. So it kind of sounds like all or nothing but all or nothing is kind of like black and white. Mental filtering is only looking at one color of the rainbow. Okay, so focusing on thighs or C section scars versus your maturing body and strong body that produce human beings, focusing on that one question that you missed, other than the whole grade, like 93 or 95 on a test, focusing on one flaw of your spouse or your friend, other than them as a whole person, or a few negative comments on the feedback versus standing ovations or overall response from your work. Mental filtering, as you can kind of notice the pattern, it always focuses on the negatives, and it always leaves us never satisfied with what's going on, and always seeing the world half empty. And imagine if you're only looking at your life and yourself, not satisfied with yourself, and always half empty. That's just going to trigger more and more negative cycles of depressed and anxious feelings. Number three is an overgeneralization. So this is when one bad experience leads leading to the overgeneralization of a whole institution or culture or industry. So in the last episode, you know, I talked about your experience with a psychiatrist. And maybe one bad experience with a psychiatrist can paint the whole picture of all psychiatrists are bad. So this is an example of overgeneralization or if you think you got dumped or cheated on once and you think I'm unlovable and everybody's going to cheat on me and I can't sustain relationships. So you can see that overgeneralizing one bad experience into the future array of experiences will always leave you feeling hopeless, and also feeling very isolated and that there's nothing that can redeem one bad experience. And the fourth one is jumping to conclusions. And Dr. David Burns, who's also very well knowledge and cognitive distortion, defined jumping to conclusions as “arbitrary jumping to a negative conclusion that is not justified by the facts.” So two examples of jumping to conclusions are: Mind-reading that people are thinking negatively about us or fortune-telling, predicting that bad things are going to happen to us. So jumping to conclusions can sound like over-generalizations, but it's really jumping to conclusions about things that we don't know, such as the intentions of other people, and also the future. So for example, in episodes one, we talked about the situation where your partner's not answering your text right away. And you know, the example that I gave was when they don't answer the text you get you to get upset that they're cheating on you, or are they dead? Or are they safe? This is jumping to conclusions because you're concluding that they might be dead or they're cheating on you based on one experience that doesn't have the facts at all. So why would we jump to conclusions all the time? Because we're so insecure and anxious just having a conclusion or reasoning of the current situation gives us that sense of brief peace and awareness. And that's what's reinforcing these behaviors to jump to conclusions. But at the end of the day, leading to a conclusion that is not even true leads us to confusion and misunderstanding. and limit the scope of the situation. So just like if your partner doesn't answer the text and you jump to conclusions, that he's cheating on you, then it leads to consequential emotions and behaviors that really leave a very misunderstood, confusing situation for both of you.

So that was the first four of the eight cognitive distortions we're going to discuss in a slight this podcast, I know that you want more, and it is coming. And please come back for the next episode, because we'll be talking about the next four of the eight. And then we're going to actually talk about what to do with them, and how to get out of that tricky mind tricks that keep us in the cycle of depression and anxiety.

So in summary, it’s like this: cognitive distortions or negative automatic thoughts that paint the color of our world, and a usually served a purpose to preserve us and help us survive, especially in our upbringing, but are very powerful tools to keep us in the trap of guilt, bitterness, anger and frustration and depression, and anxiety. So my question for you is which of these cognitive distortions ring the truest for you? And can you think of the situation where you really believe in cognitive distortions, that actually led you to feel a certain way and act a certain way to fulfill your prophecy? And what would your life look like if you didn't believe in these cognitive distortions?

Now special announcement for this episode, I'm giving away three free 30-minute phone consultations to talk about your cognitive distortions, and to give me feedback on the podcast. So right now, email me at restorepsychiatrymd@gmail.com, your name your phone number, and the best time during the week, and for the first three responders. I'll email you back to arrange the time.

And we hear cognitive distortions everywhere on TV shows in conversations with family and friends. Imagine one person in your life that could benefit from listening to this episode, and share with that person. Again. Thank you so much for coming and I look forward to seeing you next time. Have a great day.