Anxiety is a common mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. One of the key features of anxiety is the presence of cognitive biases, which are patterns of thinking that can lead to distorted perceptions of reality.
I’ve always struggled with anxiety, but one of the worst things about it for me has been my all-or-nothing thinking. I would go on job interviews and if I didn’t get the job, I would immediately think of myself as a failure and that I’ll never be able to find a job. It was an incredibly discouraging and overwhelming feeling.
I would beat myself up over every little thing I did wrong in the interview, instead of focusing on the things I did well. I would think that a single rejection meant that I was never going to be able to find a job. I was stuck in this cycle of thinking that if I didn’t get the job, I was a complete failure, and it made it incredibly difficult for me to keep trying.
I was so desperate to find a job that I started to avoid applying for jobs and interviews altogether. I was afraid of rejection and I didn’t want to face the disappointment of not getting the job. It was a hard thing to admit to myself and my family, but I realized that I needed help.Lisa, Seattle, WA
In this blog post, we will explore some of the most common cognitive biases that people with anxiety tend to have, and discuss how they can be addressed.
1. Tendency to catastrophize
One of the most prevalent cognitive biases in people with anxiety is the tendency to catastrophize. This is the habit of exaggerating the potential negative consequences of a situation and assuming the worst possible outcome. For example, a person with anxiety may believe that a minor mistake at work will result in getting fired, or that a small argument with a loved one will lead to the end of the relationship. This type of thinking can lead to increased anxiety and stress, and can make it difficult for a person to cope with everyday challenges.
2. All-or-nothing thinking
Another cognitive bias that is commonly seen in people with anxiety is black-and-white thinking, also known as “all-or-nothing thinking.” This is the tendency to see things as either completely good or completely bad, with no gray areas in between. For example, a person with anxiety may view themselves as a complete failure if they make a mistake, or may see a situation as completely hopeless if things don’t go as planned. This type of thinking can lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and can make it difficult for a person to find solutions to problems.
3. Focus on the negative
A third cognitive bias that is commonly seen in people with anxiety is the tendency to focus on the negative. This is the habit of paying more attention to negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and ignoring or downplaying positive ones. For example, a person with anxiety may focus on the one negative comment they received at work, while ignoring all the positive feedback they received. This type of thinking can lead to feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, and can make it difficult for a person to see the positive aspects of their life.
How to deal with negative biases
One of the key strategies for reframing negative biases related to anxiety is to practice cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. CBT is a form of therapy that is specifically designed to help people identify and change negative thought patterns. Some CBT techniques that can be helpful for reframing negative biases include:
- Identifying and challenging negative thoughts: This involves learning to recognize negative thought patterns and to question their validity. For example, instead of thinking “I will never find a job,” a person can challenge this thought by asking themselves “What is the evidence that I will never find a job?”
- Practicing mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It can help a person to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings and to gain a more balanced perspective on them.
- Reframing negative thoughts: This involves looking at a situation in a different way, and finding a more supportive or realistic interpretation. For example, instead of thinking “I made a mistake, so I must be a failure,” a person can reframe this thought by saying “I made a mistake, but that doesn’t mean I am a failure. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow.”
- Practicing helpful self-talk: This involves intentionally focusing on helpful thoughts and feelings and repeating them to oneself.
- Setting realistic goals and rewarding yourself for achieving them. This can help to build self-confidence and positive feelings about oneself.
It’s important to keep in mind that changing negative thought patterns takes time and effort. It’s not going to happen overnight, but with the help of a therapist or digital tools and consistent practice of these techniques, it can be done.
These digital tools can help a person to identify and challenge their negative thought patterns, and to learn new ways of thinking and coping. Additionally, mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga, can help a person to reduce their levels of anxiety and stress, and to gain a more balanced perspective on their thoughts and feelings.
- Anxiety is a common mental health condition that is characterized by cognitive biases
- Common cognitive biases that people with anxiety tend to have include catastrophizing, black-and-white thinking, and focusing on the negative.
- To address these cognitive biases, people with anxiety can work with a mental health professional or use digital tools such as mental health apps, online therapy platforms, and self-help resources.
- Mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga can also help to reduce anxiety and stress and gain a more balanced perspective on thoughts and feelings.