Cognitive Distortions

This is a portion of a message that I posted on WTO many months ago. I will probably cut some more out of it and post it here, because I think it is important. I have removed some of the details and responses to other messages that would not make sense here:

I think people often make mistakes in “self-diagnosis”. For all I know, half the people (or more) viewing these messages are not dealing with BPD at all, but instead something else. That is one of the reasons that a couple of months ago, I specifically asked a mother on this board whether her daughter was diagnosed with BPD and how old the daughter was – because the behavior that she described could be attributed to many “disorders” (including the disorder of being a teenager).

There is a movement within the psychiatric community to change the name of BPD. Some also want BPD to be classified as an Axis I disorder. So, it could be that “borderline personality disorder” will not exist anymore and BPD will not be a “personality” disorder anymore. The point of saying this is that I think the traits of which you speak are shared among many different disorders, personality or otherwise.

In the CBT community, one of the things they talk about is “cognitive distortions” – basically thinking in a way that doesn’t match the “objective” facts. Here is a snip from “The Feeling Good Handbook” about cognitive distortions:

All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never–ending pattern of defeat.

Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.

Disqualifying the positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

Jumping to conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even
though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your

Mind reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and don’t bother to check it out.

The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly and feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact. There’s something to learn from asking yourself, are psychics real? Investigating the answer you will learn how placebo and self fulfilling prophecies manifest inside you.

Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization: You exaggerate the
importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”

Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

Should statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and
shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you
could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should
statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

Labeling and mislabeling: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, “He’s a damn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible.

Now, at times everyone, disordered or not, does some of these
things. In the case of BPD, many of these distortion can into play.
But these distortions are shared with other disorders and with “normal” thinking.

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