It’s true that we are what we eat. But we’re not necessarily what we think. Irrational thinking can show up in many forms. It’s sneaky like that.
Although irrational thinking can be associated with many mental health diagnoses, it shows up most often with anxiety.
I am the Queen of Catastrophe. Few people can turn a normal situation into an end-of-the-world situation like I can. If my friend hasn’t picked me up at 2:30 PM as we planned, then
1. She’s annoyed with me and it not coming – there doesn’t have to be a reason, by the way
2. There’s been a terrible car crash
3. Something awful has happened in her life
4. I have completely misunderstood the date and time of our plans
Note the absence of “she must be running a couple of minutes late”.
Maybe you relate.
Luckily by learning to help other people deal with their anxiety and the irrational thoughts that often come with it, I’m usually able to use those same techniques I share with clients to redirect to more rational thinking. Like most people, it took me time and practice to be able to bring my thoughts back to reality, but I promise you, it can be done.
According to the School of Medicine at The University of Michigan, negative thinking is just one of the ways anxiety can trigger irrational thoughts. Read on:
• Focusing on the negative: This is sometimes called filtering. You filter out the good and focus only on the bad. Example: “I get so nervous speaking in public. I just know that people are thinking about how bad I am at speaking.” Reality: Probably no one is more focused on your performance than you. It may help to look for some evidence that good things happened after one of your presentations. Did people applaud afterward? Did anyone tell you that you did a good job?
• Should: People sometimes have set ideas about how they “should” act. If you hear yourself saying that you or other people “should,” “ought to,” or “have to” do something, then you might be setting yourself up to feel bad. Example: “I have to be in control all the time or I can’t cope with things.” Reality: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have some control over the things that you can control. But you may cause yourself anxiety by worrying about things that you can’t control.
• Overgeneralizing: This is taking one example and saying it’s true for everything. Look for words such as “never” and “always.” Example: “I’ll never feel normal. I worry about everything all the time.” Reality: You may worry about many things. But everything? Is it possible you are exaggerating? Although you may worry about many things, you also may find that you feel strong and calm about other things.
• All-or-nothing thinking: This is also called black-or-white thinking. Example: “If I don’t get a perfect job review, then I’ll lose my job.” Reality: Most performance reviews include some constructive criticism—something you can work on to improve. If you get five positive comments and one constructive suggestion, that is a good review. It doesn’t mean that you’re in danger of losing your job.
• Catastrophic thinking: This is assuming that the worst will happen. This type of irrational thinking often includes “what if” questions. Example: “I’ve been having headaches lately. I’m so worried. What if it’s a brain tumor?” Reality: If you have lots of headaches, you should see a doctor. But the odds are that it’s something more common and far less serious. You might need glasses. You could have a sinus infection. Maybe you’re getting tension headaches from stress.
I hope you enjoyed and more importantly learned something about anxiety and irrational thinking from this post.
Please contact our office to set up an appointment for an assessment to see if we can help you learn to deal more effectively with your anxiety.