Robert F. Mullen, PhD
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The distinction between social anxiety disorder and social anxiety is a matter of severity; reference to one includes the other. The recovery tools and techniques provided are applicable to most emotional malfunctions including depression, substance abuse, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and issues of self-esteem and motivation. These malfunctions originate homogeneously, their trajectories differentiated by environment, experience, and the diversity of human thought and behavior.
“Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI – deliberate, repetitive, neural information.” – WeVoice (Madrid, Málaga)
Cognitive Distortion #6
When we overgeneralize, we draw broad conclusions or make statements about something or someone that are unsupported by evidence – arbitrary claims that can’t be proven or disproven. We can also overgeneralize if our conclusion is based on one or two pieces of evidence but ignore evidence to the contrary. We often base our conclusions on past events that are irrelevant to present situations.
Overgeneralization is especially prevalent in persons experiencing depression or anxiety. Similar to Filtering, where we ignore the positive and dwell on the negative, and Polarized Thinking, where we see things in black or white, Overgeneralization is based on our tendency to assume the worst in a situation. Keywords that support overgeneralization are negative words that impede recovery including all, every, none, never, always, everybody, and nobody.
Space is Limited
Those of us experiencing social anxiety and other emotional malfunctions tend to personalize our overgeneralizations. We self-overgeneralize. Our condition makes us feel helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless – obvious, self-destructive constructs. Our symptoms are overgeneralized reactions that support our negative self-beliefs and image. If someone rejects us, we assume everyone will reject us. If we fail a test, we conclude we are generally a failure.
Our automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are overgeneralizations. “No one will like me.” “I’m a failure.” “She called me stupid.” “Everyone thinks I’m an idiot.” These self-defeating thoughts are based on our fears and anxieties rather than the available evidence.
When we gossip, we tend to overgeneralize. When we make arbitrary statements, we overgeneralize, Consider the following: “Everyone knows the receptionist is a liar.” To assert that everyone believes the receptionist is a liar is an exaggeration without proven consensus. A few colleagues may share that opinion, but certainly not everyone.
Often our other-overgeneralizations are insecure reactions to our SAD symptomatic fears of criticism, ridicule, and rejection. They also rationalize our fears of interconnectivity and avoidance of social situations. We justify our prejudices by overgeneralizing. One bad apple in a group means everyone in the group is rotten. We make broad and inaccurate assumptions about that group based on this one person’s behavior. Overgeneralized thinking can cause us to wrongly judge entire groups of people, which is harmful to self and society.
It is important to remain vigilant that cognitive distortions may help us avoid facing the harsh reality of our negative self-appraisal in the short term, but they perpetuate our anxiety and depression. The rational response to overgeneralization is to (1) consider the accuracy of the statement and consider the available evidence, and (2) identify the situation, fears, and ANTs that compel the need to cognitively distort in the first place.
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