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"Should" Statements Cognitive Distortion (PDF)

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“Should statements” are a type of cognitive distortion that involves imposing unrealistic demands and pressure on oneself and others. These expectations often result from striving for high standards and failing to meet them, which sets a person up for frustration and disappointment. They may even contribute to depression.

The "Should" Statements Cognitive Distortion PDF handout teaches clients to recognize the presence of this thought pattern in their lives by defining it and providing examples. For instance, a client might often think that “life shouldn’t be so hard” or people are supposed to be nicer as a result of this distortion.

Using this handout helps kids and teens practice mindfulness and ways to reframe their thoughts. As a parent or caregiver, offer support to help them overcome “should statements” by encouraging them to consider alternative perspectives. Feel free to share our Coping Statements for Anxiety worksheet to support them with challenging “should statements” that cause anxiety.

This handout is included in our 19-page CBT Handouts Bundle, for those wanting a more comprehensive coverage of cognitive distortions to support CBT treatment.

*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. Hjeltnes, A., Binder, P., Moltu, C., & Dundas, I. (2015). Facing the fear of failure: An explorative qualitative study of client experiences in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program for university students with academic evaluation anxiety. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 10(1), 27990. https://doi.org/10.3402/qhw.v10.27990
  2. Kamushadze, T., Martskvishvili, K., Mestvirishvili, M., & Odilavadze, M. (2021). Does perfectionism lead to well-being? The role of flow and personality traits. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 17(2), 43–57. https://doi.org/10.5964/ejop.1987
  3. Kube, T., Rief, W., & Glombiewski, J. A. (2017). On the Maintenance of Expectations in Major Depression – Investigating a Neglected Phenomenon. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00009
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  • File: PDF
  • Size: 8.5" x 11"

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