Thoughts are constantly popping into our minds automatically. These thoughts are involuntary, and often we’re not even aware that we’re having them. And when we’re feeling anxious, these thoughts tend to be very negative. In CBT we refer to these as automatic negative thoughts (or ANTs).
Automatic negative thoughts are often responsible for initiating anxiety. And then they lead to more anxiety as we get caught up in vicious cycles and downward spirals that are extremely difficult to break. When we’re anxious, it can seem like there’s no end to our automatic negative thoughts. They keep coming all day long.
Automatic negative thoughts related to anxiety tend to involve:
- Worrying about threats and danger
- Catastrophizing and worst case scenarios
- Assuming we’ll be unable to cope with things
- What ifs?
Automatic Negative Thoughts and Anxiety
This transcription was auto-generated by YouTube. I’ve only added minimal editing, so I apologize for any errors, run-on sentences, etc.
A lot of our thoughts are automatic. A thought just pops into our head without us even thinking about it. Some of our automatic thoughts can be pleasant or neutral, but more often than not they tend to be negative.
Automatic negative thoughts have a strong effect on our mood and how we’re feeling, and learning how to respond to our automatic negative thoughts in ways that help us feel better is an important part of mindfulness based cognitive therapy. So now we’re gonna look at some common automatic negative thoughts that people have that tend to be associated with depression, anxiety and anger.
When we’re feeling depressed we tend to have very negative thoughts. And these thoughts center around three themes: negative thoughts about ourselves, negative thoughts about the world, and negative thoughts about the future. Examples of automatic negative thoughts about ourselves are things such as: I’m such a loser. I’m no good. I keep disappointing everyone. What’s wrong with me? I can’t do anything right. I’m a failure. I feel so helpless. Nobody even cares about me.
And automatic negative thoughts about the world, which is just a general sort of negativity about everything: life is so unfair. Things should be easier. The whole world’s falling apart. Everything’s so stupid. Life stinks.
And automatic negative thoughts about the future: things are never gonna work out for me. There’s nothing i can do about it. I’m always going to feel this way. I’m never going to be happy. There’s no point in trying anymore. It’ll never get any better.
And when we’re feeling anxious we tend to have thoughts that overestimate the likelihood that something bad will happen. And we overestimate the severity of what will happen. And we underestimate our ability to cope with things.
And so we have automatic negative thoughts about threats and danger: oh no! What’s happening? This is terrible.
And automatic negative thoughts about our ability to cope with things: i can’t handle this. I’m never gonna be able to do this. People are gonna wonder what’s wrong with me. This is just too much. What am i gonna do? I should just quit now.
And all sorts of what-ifs which are probably the most common types of thoughts people have when they’re feeling anxious or worried what if this happens what if that happens what if what if what if
And when we’re feeling anxious, our thoughts are too a future-oriented, and we end up spending a lot of time and energy worrying about how things might be in the future. And even though these things haven’t occurred yet and may never occur, we tend to respond as if they’ve already happened, or that they’re inevitable. And so we wind up suffering the consequences right now. And even if the things we’re dreading never actually occur, we’ve already made ourselves pay the price and suffer over them whether they actually happen or not.
Our automatic negative thoughts that are associated with anger are things around the need for fairness and respect; becoming aggravated, frustrated or losing patience; violations of rules; and revenge.
This is so unfair. Why does this keep happening to me? I can’t stand this anymore. What’s wrong with him? You can’t treat people that way. He’ll pay for that!
And in the next couple of videos we’ll learn how we can improve our mood and help ourselves feel better by managing our automatic negative thoughts through cognitive diffusion and letting go of thoughts and with cognitive restructuring.
In the next post, we’re going to look at the nature of worrying. And then we’ll learn some CBT and mindfulness strategies to help reduce worry and anxiety. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.