It’s time to be honest. There are sometimes that we feel so full of emotion that we know that we just aren’t thinking right. I believe it’s probably happened to all of us! But what happens when those unhealthy thinking styles impact relationships, self-esteem, our work, and quality of life? Or when it becomes more of a pattern than just because of strong emotions? That’s when it’s time to change those unhealthy thinking styles. But first, let’s identify some of them.


The first unhealthy thinking style is overgeneralization. This can often be spotted by “always/never” and “everything/nothing” statements. Challenge that thought – does it always or never happen? Are there exceptions?

  • Example: I never do anything right!
  • Challenge: I do a lot of thing right, I just happened to mess this one up!


Next is jumping to conclusions without sufficient evidence about a certain situation. Do you think you know what someone is thinking without asking them? Are you trying to predict the future without reason?

  • Example: I’m not going to ask for a raise. I’m sure my boss thinks I don’t deserve one.
  • Challenge: I do a good job. If he doesn’t give me a raise, there may be other reasons.


Catastrophizing is another common unhealthy thinking style. This is when you see only the worst possible outcome of a situation. Some write it off by saying they are only trying to be a realist, when in reality, they are not looking at the possible positives that could come. This is also seen when someone blows things out of proportion, making a big deal out of something that honestly will not matter five years from now.

  • Example: I can’t believe my spouse washes the dishes on the right side of the sink when I said to do it on the left!
  • Challenge: I’m thankful my spouse cared enough to do the dishes. Now I won’t have to do it.


Somewhat related to that is discounting the positive. That is when you ignore the positive outcomes that have happened in the past in order to fit the narrative that you want.

  • Example: I only got that job because I got lucky. No one else must have applied.
  • Challenge: They looked at my experience and knowledge and knew I was the right person for the job.


Personalization is a very common unhealthy thinking style. That is when you take responsibility for another’s thoughts, actions, or feelings regarding something that is outside of your control. Very often it doesn’t have to do with you, even if it may feel like it does.

  • Example: My friend is in a really bad mood. I must have done something to upset her.
  • Challenge: My friend is in a really bad mood. There must be something going on; I’ll ask her and see how I can help.


The last unhealthy thinking style I’ll discuss is emotional reasoning, the belief that I feel a certain way, so it must be true. Feelings can come from many places including our history, what we think about ourselves, what we think about others, and our situations, among other reasons. However, our feelings do not always tell the truth – they can lie to us!

  • Example: I feel so stupid for making that mistake. I must be an idiot.
  • Challenge: Everyone makes mistakes. It doesn’t define me and that’s not who I am.


The next time you are in a conflict, in a difficult situation, or can feel your anxiety or depression increasing, look through this list. Are any of these unhealthy thinking styles in play? If so, recognize it, challenge it, and see how changing your thoughts can change your feelings and your mood.