We all feel that we are processing the world as it is. It is easy to understand that our senses and our mind create distortions, but it is not so easy to accept the fact that the contrary intuition “gives up” or gives up the battle in the face of it.
There are numerous occasions in which we tend to distort our perception. While normal, it is true that these distortions increase or worsen in the presence of a mental disorder, such as depression.
Namely, these misguided cognitive distortions make us vulnerable to sadness, depression, and people who suffer from them usually have low self-esteem.
Consequently, we see what are the 11 distorted views that our mind has of reality, defining what they consist of and how they manifest and then explain the cause.
The 11 distortions of the mind with respect to reality
Cognitive distortions prevent us from seeing things for what they are, in other words they distort reality by focusing only on one aspect in particular.
. Starting from an isolated fact, we derive a general and universal rule: “Today he has not even spoken to me, I am unpleasant to everyone”.
. Draw a conclusion for no apparent reason: “If he doesn’t look at me, it’s because I’m ugly” or “I’m sure they’ll fail me even if I study”.
. Automatically use pejorative names instead of describing yourself exactly: “I am a coward, desperate, stupid, weak …”.
Polarized or dichotomous thinking
. Taking things to the extreme in no uncertain terms: “It must be perfect, otherwise it’s not good”.
. Always blaming ourselves for things that we really have no fault of: “If I hadn’t left the house so early, there would have been more light and the accident would not have occurred.”
. To suppose that everything has to do with us, even if we are dealing with foreign situations that have little or nothing to do with our life: “Look at Rosa as she is always on target, while I am always a disaster”.
. Believing you know what others think and why they behave in a certain way: “Think I’m stupid”.
. Feeling of having total responsibility for everything or not having control over anything: “It was a disaster because of me”, “I can’t do anything to change”.
. To assume that things are how we feel: “I will die soon”, “All my friends will leave me”.
. Mental filter that makes us ignore all the positive things in favor of the negative ones: “I passed that important exam because I was lucky”.
Maximization and minimization
. Evaluate the facts by attributing an exaggerated or lower weight based on the actual evidence. For example, a case of minimization is to take away the importance of the positive facts that have to do with us: “He asked me to marry him, but he would have asked anyone”.
Explanation of these cognitive distortions
The fundamental elements in Beck’s theory of depression are the patterns, automatic thoughts, and cognitive distortions that we just talked about.
Cognitive schemas are assumptions and beliefs based on reality. Automatic thoughts are irrational reflexes, inadequate, involuntary and experienced as plausible.
Finally, cognitive distortions are the systematic errors that affect information processing. Hence erroneous cognition is a fundamental element in a person’s malaise.
All these patterns are formed in childhood and can be activated following a stressful event in adult life that concerns an aspect of the person. Starting from this activation, we all process information with this negative pattern, which leads to cognitive distortions and automatic thoughts. And it is at this point that the cognitive triad of depression appears: a negative view of oneself, of the world and of the future.
To clarify these concepts, let’s see an example:
Maria is a girl who since childhood has witnessed repeated mistreatment of her mother by her father. On the other hand, her mother told her it was normal, all men are the same once married.
Maria takes this information as truthful and develops a negative pattern with respect to relationships with men that is activated when she experiences a stressful situation equal to the one that originated the pattern itself. Years later, her boyfriend yells at her and she automatically activates the “all men are bad and mistreat women” scheme.
Any information will be processed by this scheme, automatic thoughts will arise with respect to the “normality” that distinguishes the partner’s behavior. For example, “whatever he does to me, he does it for my good”. Maria will activate cognitive distortions when she processes information such as emotional reasoning: “I feel that I will die soon and I am unable to leave it”.
All this will help activate the cognitive triad of depression in Maria’s mind: a negative vision of herself, of the situation and of the future.
How to manage depressive patterns, thoughts and cognitions
The best way to treat depression that is caused by this way of processing information is to use Beck’s Cognitive Therapy for Depression .
Beck’s Cognitive Therapy is very comprehensive, with an educational phase, skills training and subsequent real-life application. Many techniques are used to question or dispel all the erroneous knowledge that the person activates and that undermine his self-esteem, making him sink more and more into the pit of depression.
Some of these techniques are re-attribution, the search for alternative interpretations, questioning the evidence of these patterns and the catastrophic predictions we make relentlessly.
The patient-therapist relationship is important in this therapy. The effectiveness of the treatment has been demonstrated, especially with regard to the behavioral aspect: it is good to carry out activities and get active, even if you are down in the dumps and continue to have cognitive distortions. Sooner or later, the energy that comes from movement and the effort to reach a goal will bring down all distortions.