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The 17 most common cognitive distortions

Cognitive processes are those transformational rules through which individuals select information that will ultimately be served, encrypted and stored for later retrieval when needed. Usually to perform this task our brain is based on the use of heuristics, which are rules that follows the brain unconsciously when a problem arises, reformulating it to transform it into a simpler one to solve almost automatically. However, this process can lead to cognitive biases, which may be of a negative nature. When these negative brain refer to emocioanes problems is what Aaron Beck (1967) called cognitive distortions.

These typical negative patterns of depressed people lead them to commit a series of errors of information processing, which enabled him to strengthen the validity of their irrational beliefs and thus maintaining its depressed state. Beck (1967) differed first six cognitive distortions, but it was in 1979 when Beck et al, the broadened to 11.:

  1. Thinking of all or nothing.
  2. Overgeneralization.
  3. Discounting the positive.
  4. Jumping to conclusions.
  5. Read minds.
  6. Fortune telling.
  7. Magnify / minimize.
  8. Emotional reasoning.
  9. Statements “should”
  10. Label.
  11. inappropriate guilt.

The 17 most common cognitive distortions

Finally, of all the contributions both Beck (1979) and other authors such as Freeman and DeWolf (1992) and Freeman and Oster (1999), and Di Yurica
Tomasso (2004) collected the 17 most common cognitive distortions for cognitive therapists present in both patients with depression as in patients with other disorders. Below we explain and give examples of each:

  1. Inference arbitrary. Also it is known as “jumping to conclusions”. It is the process of obtaining a negative conclusion in the absence of empirical evidence that can substantiate sufficiently. Example: “I will not pass the test because I’m a disaster.”
  2. Catastrophism. It results when a situation with the worst possible outcome, both of lived experience as the future is evaluated. Example: “It is better not to do the test because I flunk and be the worst.”
  3. Comparative. When a trend is produced compared with others so that concludes that it is much worse than others. Example: “Although I can not study get better grades than my partner.”
  4. Dichotomous thinking. That is, when thought or white or black. own experiences or others in categories that only have two opposing options (; positive / negative, possible / impossible good / bad) are placed. Example: “If I do not get a 10 on the exam will be a loser.”
  5. Disqualifying the positive. When experiences or positive traits of the person is disqualified. Example: “I passed the test, but was lucky.”
  6. Emotional reasoning. When opinions are formed about oneself based only on emotions experienced by the subject. Example: “I’m afraid to get on the plane, flying is very dangerous” or “I will not touch that dog, dogs bite.”
  7. Construction of self-worth based on outside opinions. When we maintain a personal worth in terms of others. Example: “My coach tells me they are very wrong with the ball, it sure is right” (I hope that no coach would say that to a child) or “My boyfriend says I’m stupid, sure he’s right.”
  8. Fortune telling. Predicting a negative result, an emotion or a future event and believe these predictions to be true. Example: “I’m sure I’ll even consider nervous in the examination” or “sure missed the penalty.”
  9. Labeled. When a person is labeled oneself or others as pejorative. Example: “I am ugly”, “I’m the worst player in the world”.
  10. Magnification. Tendency to exaggerate the negative of a trait, situation, or person acontencimiento. Example: “I missed the decisive penalty, my career is over.” or “has not liked the surprise gift, sure to keep me.”
  11. Read minds. When a person believes that another is negatively thinking about her without evidence of it. Example: “My father thinks I’m useless, but does not say,” “Coach basically do not trust me.”
  12. Minimization. Process which minimizes or downplays some events, traits or circumstances. Example: “He gave me a kiss goodnight but I could have given more,” “I have called three times to leave but could have called more times,” “He only gave me a flower, not to me.”
  13. Overgeneralization. It is drawing conclusions based on a few experiences and apply them to a range of unrelated situations. Example: “It has burned me food, I’ll never know do anything right,” “I have not passed the ball to score, be sure not want to go to the cinema.”
  14. Perfectionism. When a constant effort is made by an internal or external representation of perfection is fulfilled without examining whether it is reasonable, often to avoid a subjective experience of failure. Example: “To not score a goal, better not play,” “If I get the perfect meal is better to eat out.”
  15. Personalization. When personal causality to a situation, event or other reactions without any evidence to support it is assumed. Example: “Pepe and Manuel are laughing, it sure is my”, “The teacher looks at me as correct, safe suspending me.”
  16. Selective abstraction. Process focus only on one aspect, detail or negative situation, so that its importance is magnified by putting the whole situation in a negative context. Example: “I’m the worst, I lost the eraser”, “sure I fail, I forgot the pen of luck.”
  17. Statements with “should”. The expectations or internal demands on skills or personal skills or other, but without analyzing whether they are reasonable in the context in which they say. Example: “I should have realized it was wrong and not keep asking.”



  • Beck. A.T., Rush, A.J., Shaw, B.F. y Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. The Guilford Press. Nueva York. Publicado en castellano en Desclée De
    Brower, 1983.
  • Yurita,C.L. y DiTomasso, R.A. (2004). Cognitive Distorsions. En A. Freeman, S.H. Felgoise, A.M. Nezu, C.M. Nezu, M.A. Reinecke (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. 117-121. Springer

Iván Pico

Director y creador de Psicólogo Colegiado G-5480 entre otras cosas. Diplomado en Ciencias Empresariales y Máster en Orientación Profesional. Máster en Psicología del Trabajo y Organizaciones. Posgrado en Psicología del Deporte entre otras cosas. Visita la sección "Sobre mí" para saber más. ¿Quieres una consulta personalizada? ¡Escríbeme!

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    • ¡Hola!
      La visión de túnel y la abstracción selectiva son prácticamente lo mismo. En ambos casos la persona sufre una distorsión cognitiva en la que filtra la información como si de un túnel se tratase. Este filtraje deja fuera del contexto los aspectos positivos de la situación para solo quedarnos con la parte negativa, dentro de nuestro túnel que distorsiona la realidad.

      Un saludo,

      Iván Pico

  • Soy bipolar, uso tratamiento pero mi depresión sigue continuamente, una vez leído este artículo ya estoy sintiéndome mejor, viendo casi todas éstas manifestaciones en mi ser depresivo, gracias y por favor si me pueden decir cómo puedo corregir éste comportamiento y el evitar la recaída dentro de lo posible.
    Gracias y salud para todos

    • Hola Haidi.

      Me alegra saber que el artículo te ha servido de ayuda. En cuanto a tu problema, ¿has acudido a un profesional especializado para tu caso? Ese sería el primer paso. Si necesitas ayuda para mejorar tu estilo de afrontamiento u otras herramientas para tu mejora personal puedes contactar conmigo mediante el correo para poder orientarte mejor.

      Un saludo,
      Iván Pico
      Psicólogo online

  • Yo soy “adicta” a la de la adivinación, y me causa una angustia infinita, sobre todo en temas relacionados con la salud; siempre acabo reforzando el pensamiento negativo hasta que acabo creyéndolo. Necesito modificar este aspecto porque me provoca mucho sufrimiento.

    • Hola Celicar.

      Esa distorsión está directamente relacionada con la autoeficacia percibida, que forma parte de la inteligencia emocional. Se puede trabajar para mejorar aspectos emocionales de cara a mejorar los procesos mentales internos. El primer paso, como has hecho ahora, ser autoconsciente de la necesidad de mejora.

      Si necesitas asesoramiento personalizado ponte en contacto conmigo.

      Un saludo,

      Iván Pico
      Psicólogo Online

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