Lesson 5: Automatic Thoughts

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We all have different information processing styles, and sometimes these styles lead us to have inaccurate or distorted automatic thoughts. These are thoughts that immediately pop into our heads under certain circumstances. Common negative, unhealthy, or destructive automatic thoughts fall into three basic categories:

  1. Depression: hopelessness, worthlessness, helplessness
    A person who is not clinically depressed but who is choosing to depress might say things like:

    • It’s hopeless.
    • I can’t do anything.
    • I’ll never amount to anything.
    • There’s nothing I can do to change things.
  2. Anxiety: danger, vulnerability
    An anxious or fearful person might say:

    • I will fail for sure.
    • People will think I’m an idiot.
    • It will be awful if I don’t perform well.
  3. Anger: being treated unfairly, unreasonable obstacles, deliberate provocation
    A person who is angry might blame others or expects something by saying:

    • That person is deliberately trying to get me.
    • This is so unfair.
    • I shouldn’t have to put up with this.

Teachers’ Summary Chart of Automatic Thoughts, Information Processing Styles, and Correction Strategies

More Cognitive Strategies to Change Negative Automatic Thoughts

Student Activity: Self-Monitoring of Automatic Thoughts

Student Activity: Positive Self-Reinforcement

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