Managing Anxiety and Depression: Automatic Negative Thoughts

Walking to work and you just can’t help but think “What’s the point? I’m exhausted and obviously today is going to be a horrible day” or maybe “My boss didn’t smile at me when I waved goodbye last night. He clearly is mad at me for that error on the proposal I submitted”. We have all had at least one bad day where we have been overwhelmed with negative thinking. If you struggle with anxiety or depression, you may have had too many days like these to count or may even feel consumed by them.

Thoughts like these are something called automatic negative thoughts because they are negative thought patterns that feel automatic, like we just can’t help them. Often times they are tied to mood states like anxiety or depression. There are many different types of automatic negative thoughts. Just to name a few:

Catastrophizing – Assuming the worst about a situation (I clearly failed that entire exam because I didn’t study hard enough)

Mind Reading – Assuming you know what another person is thinking (She shook my hand a little weird when we met. She clearly doesn’t like me already)

Black and White Thinking – Only being able to see two sides to a situation, event, etc. (She spoke to me rudely. I only have two choices. I can confront her directly or just pretend like it never happened)

There are many others.

These types of thoughts unfortunately can get us into a lot of trouble. They are typically inaccurate. As well, often times they also unfortunately perpetuate these negative mood states. If you’re already feeling anxious about work performance, it makes sense that you might worry about how your boss views you. However it certainly doesn’t help you reduce your anxiety if you start assuming you know what your boss is thinking and assuming negatively.

So how do you stop? Well the first thing you do is start to notice when you are getting caught up in automatic negative thought processes so that you can then be empowered to learn to cope more effectively with them.

Need help in learning to notice and manage automatic negative thoughts? Schedule an appointment for therapy or email

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