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CBT for All or Nothing Thinking | geraldineclairetherapy Wilmslow

Are you someone who really struggles with managing your emotions? Can your emotional state go from feeling great to feeling grim in a matter of moments? Do you find yourself making impulsive decisions?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions it’s worth examining if you are prone to All or Nothing thinking habits.


What is All or Nothing thinking?


All or Nothing thinking is when we think in extremes.  We might view things as good or bad; strictly one thing or another and there is no middle ground.  Here are some examples:

•They haven’t replied to my message – No one likes me.

•I’ve got a spot – I’m totally gross.

•If I don’t get top marks in my test – I’m a failure.

•I’ve just met someone on a dating website – they’re incredible, the best person I’ve ever met.

•If I buy this jacket  –  It will change my life.

All or Nothing thinking plays a big part in maintaining lots of Mental Health difficulties.  It causes big shifts in our mood and can trigger unhelpful, and even, self destructive behaviour.


What can I do about it?


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) addresses negative thinking patterns by encouraging thought monitoring.  Thought monitoring helps us begin to capture our thoughts and take a step back from them, meaning we can get a bit of space to reflect and practice taking some perspective.

Over the next week, notice your All or Nothing thinking. Pick a time each day (not just before bed!) and write down when you experienced All and Nothing thinking including any triggers.

•Note how All or Nothing thinking has effected your mood, behaviour and relationships.

Once you’ve got a deeper understanding of your  All or Nothing thinking and how it effects you, write a pros and cons list of this habit. This will help motivate you into taking action to address All or Nothing thinking.

•Write down your All or Nothing thoughts then begin to think of balanced alternatives that are more compassionate.  For example, If I don’t get top marks in my test – I’m a failure, some alternatives might be: As long as I try my best that’s good enough; I can still pass the test without getting top marks; It is very possible to get satisfactory, good and very good marks and not fail; The fact that I am able to take a test suggests I’m not a failure; Life is about more than getting top marks; if my friend didn’t get top marks I wouldn’t think that they were a failure.

•Begin to introduce the idea of “Both-And” thinking, this is thinking about things more flexibly accepting that there can be more than one truth.  For example, instead of, my friend let me down –  she must hate me and I’m going to be alone forever try my friend isn’t perfect, I struggle with that, I do have some other people I can connect with and I’m working hard to try and have healthier relationships.

•When you notice All or Nothing thinking remember- PAWS.


Pause for some breath, begin to practice calm and rhythmic breathing.  Calming your body will help you begin to think more flexibly.

Activate your Awareness,  remind yourself that All or Nothing thinking is to be avoided at all costs.

What is the Balanced or Both-And perspective?

Stay with your new perspective of the situation.  Do not get distracted from it and commit to coming back to it again and again unless you get factual evidence to make you think otherwise.

If All or Nothing thinking is impacting on your well-being Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help. Geraldine Claire Therapy is located in central Wilmslow and provides CBT for adults and adolescents.

Contact Geraldine Claire Therapy for more information.

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