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Reframing the Narrative: Overcoming Thought Distortions

At Agave Health, we often discuss how our thoughts can influence our feelings and behaviors, especially for those managing ADHD. A common issue that many face is thought distortions—those tricky, automatic thoughts that can lead us astray.

What Are Thought Distortions?

Thought distortions, also known as cognitive distortions, are irrational or exaggerated thinking patterns that can distort reality, often leading to negative emotions and behaviors. These thoughts are usually automatic and skewed perspectives of what’s happening around us. They can make life more stressful and can be particularly challenging for those with ADHD, who might already struggle with impulsivity and emotional regulation.

Common Types of Thought Distortions

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking This distortion involves seeing things in black or white, with no middle ground. For instance, if you miss one workout, you might think, "I've ruined my fitness plan," instead of seeing it as a minor setback. Or, if you didn't finish a project perfectly, you might think, "I'm a total failure," ignoring any progress made.

  • Overgeneralization Here, you take one instance or event and generalize it to an overall pattern. For example, if you make a mistake at work, you might think, "I always mess things up," instead of recognizing it as a single incident. Or, if you were late to one meeting, you might think, "I'm always late," even if that’s not usually the case.

  • Catastrophizing This involves expecting the worst possible outcome to happen, no matter the situation. For example, after making a minor mistake at work, you might think, "I'm going to get fired," even though the mistake was easily correctable.

  • Disqualifying the Positive People who disqualify the positive choose to ignore or invalidate good things that happen. They might receive a compliment but think, "They're just being nice," and fail to acknowledge their genuine qualities or achievements. It's easier (or safer) to deflect the positive than to receive it.

  • Mind Reading Assuming you know what others are thinking without any real evidence is known as mind reading. For instance, if a friend is quiet around you, you might tell yourself, "They’re mad at me," without considering other reasons for their silence.

  • Should Statements “Should” statements are a common thought distortion where you have fixed rules for how you and others should behave. Not living up to these often unrealistic expectations can lead to feelings of guilt or frustration. For example, thinking, "I should never make mistakes," sets you up for unnecessary stress.

How to Manage Thought Distortions

Understanding and managing these thought distortions can make a big difference in how you feel and react. Here are a few strategies:

  1. Identify the Distortion First, recognize when you’re experiencing a thought distortion. Writing down your thoughts can help you see which distortions you’re dealing with most often.

  2. Challenge Your Thoughts Ask yourself whether your thoughts are based on facts or just your interpretations. For example, if you think, "I never do anything right," list some recent successes or times you’ve completed tasks successfully.

  3. Practice Mindfulness Mindfulness helps you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings without getting entangled in them. This practice can help you learn to respond to situations with more clarity and less reactivity.

  4. Seek Professional Help Sometimes, working through thought distortions can be tough, especially if they’re deeply ingrained. Working with a coach, or if necessary, a trained counselor or therapist skilled in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be invaluable in helping you understand and adjust your thinking patterns.

Recognizing and adjusting thought distortions can significantly reduce stress and improve your emotional well-being. It’s a valuable skill, especially for those managing ADHD, as it helps bring more balance and less reactivity to daily life. At Agave Health, we’re committed to helping you navigate these challenges, so you feel more in control and capable of tackling whatever comes your way.


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