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Feeling Anxious? Maybe You’re “Mind Reading”

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches us that most of what feeds anxiety disorders (social anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic, phobias), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and depression are unhealthy thinking patterns or cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are thinking errors or unhelpful beliefs that worsen mood. Therefore, to reduce symptoms of anxiety, OCD and depression, it can be valuable to learn to identify and learn to respond differently to cognitive distortions. One of the most common cognitive distortions is “mind reading”. Mind reading is what happens when you are convinced that you know what someone else is thinking. Imagine that you’re having dinner with someone you’ve recently started dating and that person is uncommonly quiet throughout dinner. You ask if everything is alright, and they answer, “Yup, everything’s fine”. Do you believe it or do you immediately think to yourself, “He/she must not like me.” If you were recently passed up for a promotion at work, do you think to yourself, “My boss probably thinks I’m a real loser.” What if your neighbor doesn’t acknowledge you at the grocery store, maybe you say to yourself “She is ignoring me because she thinks she is so much better than me”. The preceding are all examples of mind reading.

Although it is common and often helpful to guess what others are thinking by noticing other people’s body language, reactions and words, when most of these guesses are negative and we believe them without much evidence, mind reading can become a problem. When we do a lot of mind reading, we seldom test our assumptions and typically only take into account evidence that confirms our predictions.

The examples above could easily have different explanations. Possibly the person on the date is preoccupied with bad news he/she just received. Maybe the boss who didn’t give the promotion thinks you just need a little more experience and it’s also possible that the neighbor simply didn’t see you. Yet when one frequently engages in mind reading, one typically responds to these imagined negative encounters by being defensive, attacking or withdrawing. These behavior patterns often become a self-fulfilling prophecy and become the start of a negative interaction in a relationship in which there were no problems to begin with.

At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our therapists are highly trained and skilled in cognitive behavioral therapy and specialize in this science-based treatment method, whereas many others in the industry simply don’t. Our therapists’ training in CBT allow them to provide a skilled approach that gets the best results as quickly as possible. Our therapists can help you to learn to identify and challenge common cognitive distortions, including mind reading. Utilizing proven CBT techniques helps to reduce negative feelings such as anxiety and depression.

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GroundWork Counseling, LLC
400 S Orlando Ave #206
Maitland, FL 32751

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