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Common Cognitive Distortions (PDF)

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Cognitive distortions are negative thinking patterns or faulty biases that lead to increasing anxiety or depression, which can affect our self-perception. For instance, someone who assumes that others are thinking negative thoughts about them might be engaging in mind reading, which can make them feel anxious during social interactions. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), clients learn to practice identifying and modifying these thought patterns.

The Common Cognitive Distortions PDF handout is a useful resource describing 15 common thinking errors. It illustrates how each distortion might show up in a client’s life — for instance, the distortion “magnification” means exaggerating a mistake or negative quality.

Using this handout helps kids and teens gain insight into how their thoughts affect their emotions and actions. For instance, a student who realizes that she's using overgeneralization after scoring low on a test can explore an alternative helpful thought. Parents and caring adults may offer additional support by introducing our Exploring Emotions Worksheet.

This handout is included in our 19-page CBT Handouts Bundle, which includes additional information and tips to manage each of the common cognitive distortions.

*This item is an instant digital download. A link to download your files will be emailed to you once payment is confirmed.

Want more resources like this? Check out our full catalog of CBT worksheets and handouts.


  1. Freeman, A., & Felgoise, S. (2005). Encyclopedia of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Taylor & Francis.
  2. Schwartz, J. S., & Marić, M. (2014). Negative cognitive errors in youth: specificity to anxious and depressive symptoms and age differences. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 43(5), 526–537. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1352465814000228
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  • File: PDF
  • Size: 8.5" x 11"

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