As conscious beings, we continually interpret the world around us – and sometimes our brains make mistakes in that interpretation. These mistakes are known as Cognitive Distortions or “thinking errors.”
One example of a common cognitive distortion found in all anxiety disorders is Catastrophic Thinking, “when a person makes a sweeping negative conclusion without considering more likely possibilities.” An example is when someone who gets a headache assumes they have a serious illness, or when a student who takes an exam they were well prepared for assumes they failed it. These interpretations can cause a person to feel anxious when in reality they have not considered other possibilities, such as a more likely reason for the headache, or that preparing for the exam will likely means a good result.
Cognitive Restructuring is an evidence-based CBT technique that is an adjunctive treatment for OCD and related disorders. It refers to the act of identifying ineffective patterns in thinking, and then changing them to be more effective and skillful. Cognitive restructuring is not making thoughts more positive. Instead, it is learning the skill of becoming aware of unhelpful patterns of thought, and learning to broaden our perspectives on the thought and restructure it so it is rational, reasonable and balanced.