Why All-or-Nothing Thinking is Not Healthy

  Sunday, May 24, 2020

All-or-nothing thinking means perceiving and analyzing different conditions with an extreme approach. Either the interpretation is too positive or too negative for an event. For example, we might call ourselves an erred human for failing at something and think we would only be loved if we achieve a certain goal. This is an all-or-nothing thinking approach.

This behavior is a type of cognitive distortion, which is a form of confining ourselves into a thought bubble. This way, we repeatedly interpret a situation to be either of the two sides of the poles and nothing in moderation. Our reliance on cognitive distortion can turn into anger, anxiety, and depression.

How Does it Affect us? 

All-or-none thinking can highly influence our practical lives. For example, you might get overwhelmed by a question asked to you in a job interview, and you didn’t answer it the way you wanted to. Now, after the interview is over, the individual might think he or she has ruined the whole chance of getting the job just because they failed to perform their best. They will internalize something minor and call themselves unworthy of their dream job. 

OwlBot helps you identify cognitive distortions.

This harshness towards yourself is imposed through the repetitive thoughts from a fixed mindset. When you engage in an unhealthy internal conversation with yourself, the voice only goes louder and takes you to a downward spiral of dismay. Immediate feelings are guilt, shame, anger, and sadness. 

This disables us from bringing any positive change in our lives, which can be quite harmful to ourselves. For example, we might engage in self-destructive behaviors that devoid us from living our lives to the fullest. Also, we restrict ourselves from taking any risk that helps us improve our quality of life. The result is that we remain in a stagnant position and reject all opportunities life gives us for growth. Therefore, our physical, emotional, and social health all fail to reach their optimum level.

Positive Approaches towards All-or-Nothing Behavior

The first and foremost thing in this regard is to analyze the situation at hand and read between the lines by identifying what triggers you. If you find yourself over-criticizing yourself, let's say in the job interview scenario, your first instinct must be to fight against the voices, be louder than them even if it sounds made up, which it will as your mind is programmed to think otherwise. But the key is to not stop, and when you counter one negative thought, have four to six positive thoughts as a comeback.

Moreover, cognitive-behavioral treatments like cognitive restructuring are proven to be helpful in addressing issues pertaining to cognitive behavior therapy like an all-or-none response. In cognitive restructuring, you're supposed to differentiate the logical from illogical, and rationally identify the true value of every thought and also calm yourself.


We hope this helped you understand this cognitive distortion pattern, and some of the checkpoints that will help you in alleviating these extreme behaviors are the following: 

  • Acknowledge your strengths 
  • Accept and realize that it’s alright to not get what you wanted 
  • Find something positive in every situation
  • Seek emotional support from those whom you can trust 
  • When thinking something extreme, try standing on middle ground

Health Disclaimer

JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.

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