Cognitive Distortions II
Are you being deceived?
Imagine that you’ve just taken a pill that makes you feel as though your leg has just been severely broken. You have no physical injury and it’s perfectly safe to walk but you are in complete agony. Your goal is to overcome the pain and walk, or maybe even run. This is what comes to mind when someone asks me to engage in an activity that my anxiety or bipolar generally prevent me from doing. I’m starting to get better at going against my instincts when I’ve analyzed them and determined that I’m being tricked by a cognitive distortion; but it still feels wrong at times. In my last therapy session my therapist and I talked about an issue I have going out in public when I’m in a certain state of mind. When I’m depressed and plagued with anxiety I have a hard time facing people. One of the examples we talked about was crossing the street in order to go get the mail. When I’m depressed. I feel like I need to shower, put on make-up, and dress up just to go across the street because I don’t know who I might run into and what impression they may get of me. I magnify the consequences and also “mind-read” or “fortune-tell” by assuming that if someone sees me un-showered that they will think the worst of me. I think, “they will think that I’m lazy” or, “I’ve started drinking again” maybe “I use drugs” and sometimes I just feel ugly. I imagine them thinking any number of negative of things about me. I magnify this situation, acting as though a negative judgment has the ability to impact my future. I revisit these thoughts often, unable to just let them go. These opinions of me may be passed on and soon other’s will think the same of me. It may even effect the way that people treat me or my ability to find work! Granted this particular issue is virtually non-existent outside of a rural community but the mentality translates over to other scenarios. I’ve had similar issues in various work situations because I was so insecure about what others thought of me, that I was constantly anxious and would do anything to avoid work. I would also make up elaborate stories if I made a mistake because I didn’t want others to think I was incompetent. These insecurities aren’t nearly as prominent during a manic phase; mania comes with a completely different set of problems. In fact, sometimes during mania my confidence rises to an unrealistic height and I feel invincible. This of course just worsens the descent to depression once I start to realize that I am indeed, unfortunately, quite vulnerable , flawed, and human.
I was given a work sheet last week, which I’ll attach for anyone that might find it useful. It’s best to go through such exercises with the help of a therapist but recognizing these distortions on your own is OK too. I would be willing to bet that many of you have fallen victim to a few cognitive distortions of your own, even if they aren’t impeding your life dramatically; no one is immune.