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Top 10 Thinking Traps Affecting Your Mental Health

Sarah Fader
Top 10 Thinking Traps Affecting Your Mental Health
The following article is part of a series that was created in cooperation with BetterHelp, one of the company’s listed on our site, to provide information about mental health issues.

Our minds are remarkable. People can think of incredibly creative ideas. Your brain helps you function and can save your life with its quick-thinking ability. Your mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on how you respond to your thoughts. Here are some common thinking traps that we fall into with our mental health and what we can do to help ourselves. 

1. Negative thinking

Negative thinking is painful. When you can't stop thinking negatively, it hurts you. You want to challenge yourself or go for a goal, but your mind tells you that it's hopeless. Your brain tells you that things won't get better. These negative thoughts are upsetting and can lead to depression. You need to discuss negative thinking patterns with a therapist. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of treatment that addresses harmful thought patterns. You can target these thoughts and start proving them wrong.

2. Worrying

We all worry from time to time. There's a difference between worrying sometimes and obsessively focusing on what could go wrong. Worrying doesn't solve anything. You may feel like you're productive when you worry, but it's a myth. You need to think of productive solutions rather than obsess over what could go wrong. Think about what you can control, and make a list of what actions you can take. 

3. Blaming others

It's not easy to admit that you're wrong. We all make mistakes, and some people struggle with admitting that they messed up. But, the solution isn't to blame others. You may feel some relief from blaming another person, but that's only temporary. It doesn't help you gain anything emotionally when you place blame on others. You could be holding a grudge because someone hurt you. You have a right to your feelings, but playing the blame game doesn't accomplish much. Focus on what your actions are and how you can take responsibility for yourself.  

4. Regretting the past

Many of us have regrets. It's natural to look back on your life and wish things had turned out differently. Unfortunately, we cannot change the past. It would be great if someone invented a time machine, but that doesn't exist as of yet. When you regret something, forgive yourself. Ask yourself if there's anyone you need to make amends with, and consider if you want to reach out to that person. Sometimes it helps to have closure. Sometimes you have regret, and there's nothing you can do to fix the past. The best thing you can do is learn from it and move forward.

5. Telling yourself you can't

As we've established above, negative thinking hurts you. You might feel like you're not able to accomplish your goal. It feels too intimidating, and you just want to give up. Everyone feels that way sometimes. But, remind yourself that you don't have to accomplish a goal in one day. Break things down into small steps and take things one item at a time.

6. All or nothing thinking

When you find yourself saying words like "always" or "never," it's going to make you feel worse. For example: "I always fail." You don't fail every single time. When you engage in this sort of black and white thinking, you're bound to feel bad about yourself. Instead of thinking that you constantly do something, remind yourself that everyone has moments where they're not proud of their behavior. Sometimes is a better word to use rather than always.

7. Letting others define who you are

Just because someone says something about you doesn't make it true. Often in life, we seek people's approval. Many of us want to be liked. When you focus on another person's approval, you will be continually disappointed. If someone says something unkind about you, try not to take it to heart. The most important opinion about yourself is held by you. Remember to build yourself up. Remind yourself of what you appreciate about yourself. Make a list of your good qualities and focus on what you know to be true rather than other people's opinions. 

8. Telling yourself you're a "bad person."

When you make a mistake, you regret it. Some people are hard on themselves and label themselves as a "bad person." People aren't good or bad. They make decisions, which can impact their lives. You may have made a choice that hurt you or others, but that doesn't make you a bad person. The best thing you can do is try to do better next time. If you need to apologize to someone involved, then do so. But don't continue to punish yourself.

9. Mind reading

Mind reading is a trap that many of us fall into. You're worried that a friend or loved one is angry with you. You're convinced that you know why, but you haven't asked that period. You may be an intuitive person, but you can't read that person's mind. The best way to handle the situation is to ask the individual how they feel. Don't assume anything; just ask.

10. Thinking the worst

There's a common cognitive distortion in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is called "catastrophizing." That means that you think the worst out of a given situation. It's crucial to remind yourself that you cannot predict what will happen. All you can do is choose your actions carefully and remind yourself that you're doing the best you can.

Get help for negative thinking in therapy

If you're having trouble with obsessive thinking, you should consider talking to a therapist and getting help. BetterHelp offers excellent online therapy services. Search from their expansive network of certified counselors to find one that best meets your needs - and one you can connect with.  Don't hesitate to reach out for help if you're struggling with any mental health concerns


Sarah Fader
Sarah Fader the CEO and Founder of Eliezer Tristan Publishing Company is dedicated to sharing the words of authors who endure and survive trauma and mental illness. She is also the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, ADAA, Psychology Today, and more.

We invest a lot of resources into bringing you high-quality content. However, the information on this site should not be treated as professional advice, be it medical or any other. Before choosing an online therapy service, we recommend consulting with a physician or other professional healthcare provider. Please do not use this site if you or someone you care about are in a crisis or may be in danger. These resources can provide you with immediate help.