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Cognitive Distortion

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Updated March 24, 2011

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Definition:

First identified by the seminal cognitive-behavioral therapist Aaron Beck, cognitive distortions are errors in thinking that are prevalent in many forms of mental illness including mood and anxiety disorders. As the name suggests, cognitive distortions are ways of thinking that negatively skew the way in which we see the world, ourselves and others.

Cognitive therapists have identified a number of cognitive distortions that seem to be particularly prevalent among people with OCD. Identifying and challenging these distortions is a central component of psychological therapies for OCD. OCD cognitive distortions include:

  • Over-importance of Thoughts
  • Overestimation of Danger
  • Inflation of Responsibility
  • Overestimation of Consequences of Danger
  • Need for Certainty
  • Intolerance of Emotional Discomfort
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