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Could Absolutist Thinking Be Predicting Your Mental Illness?

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We all experience nuances that are a little less than desirable: a colleague misses a deadline or causes an issue at work, a meeting doesn’t go as productively as we’d like, we begin to feel burned out by the increasing demands of our position, and more. Just as we cannot control traffic, we cannot control the mishaps that occur in our lives. However, our perception says a lot about our mental health and ultimately, how we cope with the stressors that we run into on a daily basis. Absolutist thinking is a cognitive distortion that is based on irrational beliefs, and ultimately denotes totality. The following are some examples of this:


  • “It’s me versus them.”
  • “I don’t get this promotion, I am not going to be able to function.”
  • “If I’m not perfect, I must be a failure.”
  • “What she said was stupid, so she must be stupid.”
  • “I feel upset with you, so I must not like you at all.”


Otherwise known as polarization, absolutist thinking places us in a place of “all-or-nothing” – this black and white type of thinking can make it difficult for us to handle both minor and major setbacks, because in our minds, things because worse than they really are. A 2018 study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science involved a text analysis of 63 internet forums (which included over 6,300 members) to examine absolute thinking at the linguistic level. Researchers found that compared to other forums (which served as a control group), members of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation forums were most likely to exhibit absolutist thinking. Ultimately, the researchers suggested that absolutist thinking could be a vulnerability factor to someone with one of these mental health conditions.

As one could assume, absolutist thinking can affect no only personal and social life, but also professional life. Incorrect assumptions and false beliefs could lead to the deterioration of work relationships that were once grounded in trust and respect; projects at work could become more challenging if an individual becomes triggered by nuances associated with the project. The best way to combat this sort of thinking is to attend therapy. Therapy may include a variety of treatment methods, including dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which helps individuals to accept the present moment and all of the “gray” areas that are part of life.

If you haven’t already, speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center to learn more about treatment programs to best suit your needs. It’s never too late for you to begin your journey to recovery.

Created by professionals for professionals, our Professionals Treatment Program utilizes industry proven practices for fully restoring professionals back to better health. We serve multiple industries with our specifically catered programs and services, providing life changing care for addiction and co-occurring issues. Call us today to book an appointment: 855-422-4129

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