Cognitive distortions are disproportionate and irrational thought/belief patterns or schemas. They can develop in response to trauma, repeated abuse, faulty introjections and can be used as kind of mental shortcuts. These inaccurate thought patterns/beliefs reinforce and exacerbate negative thinking and/or negative emotions. They are self-limiting and self-defeating by nature and can become so habitual that the person becomes unconscious of their use and may have great difficulty reversing the process later on down the line. Mindfulness and meditation can help the person to become more aware of their thought/belief patterns which enables them to then begin to challenge the cognitive distortions with common sense, theory of mind, reality testing, re-framing and other such methods.
All or nothing thinking: You interpret things in absolute terms. Black-and-white categories (i.e., is or is not, have and have not, want and don’t want). With all-or-nothing thinking, no grey areas exists.
Over generalizations: When you encounter a negative event you perceive it as an always occurring and never-ending cycle of defeat. For example, if you have a bad encounter with one stranger on a bus then you will have a bad encounter with all future strangers on the bus.
Mental filtering: Overly focused on the negatives. Your perception of events is finely tuned to see only the negatives and to disregard the positives.
Discounting the positives: You demand that your positive traits and achievements shouldn't count. Rather than appreciating and accepting compliments, you convince yourself that it cannot be true and the other person is just being nice. Alternatively, you dismiss the compliment by insisting that "it was nothing really".
Magnification or minimization: You either blow things out of proportion or you minimise the significance of things. In layman's terms "making a mountain out of a molehill". You elaborate and exaggerate an arbitrary event to make it appear much more negative or damaging than it truly is or was in reality. Alternatively, you minimize the importance of an event to transform a significant and important event into an unimportant and meaningless one.
Emotional reasoning: Your emotional response/reactions to arbitrary events dictates your thoughts about that event. You think with your feelings (e.g., I feel stupid so I must be stupid, I know that my best friend betrayed me because I feel betrayed).
Labelling: Instead of accepting imperfection and mistakes you label yourself stupid, a loser, incompetent. Alternatively, instead of considering what factors could have made the driver cut you off on the motorway you instantly label them a jerk or an idiot.
Personalization and blame: You attribute 100% of responsibility to yourself even if you were not entirely at fault or you blame others and deny your role in the problem.
Jumping to conclusions:
(A) Mind reading: you make the automatic assumption that people are reacting negatively to you without sufficient evidence. If your employer provides you with constructive criticism to help you increase or improve your performance at work, you automatically assume that they are saying these things to you because they no longer like you.
(B)Fortune telling: You arbitrarily predict events will end badly without any conclusive proof that it will end in that way. For example, "I'm not going to go to that party because it will only turn out to be a bad night".