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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Barsky

Common Thinking Styles That Can Keep You Stuck in Anxiety

Living with anxiety presents numerous challenges, as it often keeps individuals in a relentless cycle of worrisome thoughts. These thought patterns can hinder progress and keep individuals stuck in a state of anxiety.

Let’s explore three common thinking styles that fuel anxiety and discuss steps to lovingly overcome them. By educating yourself about these thought patterns, you can gain a greater understanding of how your anxiety is intending to help you but can also end up increasing distress. You can gain control over anxious thoughts and enhance your overall mental well-being.

1. Black and White Thinking

One prevalent thinking style associated with anxiety is black and white thinking, also known as all-or-nothing thinking. This involves perceiving situations, events, or oneself in extreme and polarized terms. For example, considering a minor work mistake as a complete failure as an employee. Another example would be "my-way-or-the-highway" thinking which can result in rigid ultimatums.

Black and white thinking perpetuates anxiety by amplifying negative emotions and not allowing an individual to see all the "grey" that exists in life. It fails to acknowledge the intricacies and nuances of life, leading to unrealistic expectations and unnecessary stress.

To break free from this thinking pattern, try to understand where your black-and-white thinking comes from, and how its intent is to help you as opposed to hurt you further. Once you heal the wound that forced your black-and-white thinking to develop, you'll more easily be able to identify positive aspects in any given situation, even when faced with setbacks. Try putting yourself in another’s shoes to identify alternative ways to perceive issues. Cultivating a more balanced perspective can help alleviate anxiety and improve overall well-being.

2. Perceiving Every Bad Situation as Permanent

Another thinking pattern that fuels anxiety is the tendency to perceive every negative situation as permanent. You could be falling into this trap if you find yourself saying things like, “it will always be like this,” “they will never change,” etc. This thinking pattern, known as overgeneralization, occurs when individuals draw broad conclusions based on isolated incidents. For instance, experiencing a fallout with a friend might lead one to believe that all relationships are doomed to fail.

Perceiving negative situations as permanent undermines one’s ability to see the potential for change and growth. It feeds anxiety by inducing feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. You don't deserve to feel this awful!

Remind yourself that you have developed this style of thinking in an attempt to prepare yourself for and protect yourself from being hurt when inevitable dissapointment occurs in the future. When have you been deeply hurt by a shocking dissapointment in the past? Understanding that this type of thinking is attempting to protect you, and having compassion for both this defense mechanism and your pain underneath can lead to healing.

3. Catastrophizing Conflicts

Catastrophizing, characterized by expecting the worst possible outcome, is a thinking pattern that significantly contributes to anxiety. Individuals prone to anxiety often fall into this trap when conflicts arise, magnifying minor disagreements into major catastrophes. For example, a small argument with your partner might lead to the belief that the relationship is irreparably damaged.

Catastrophizing conflicts fuels anxiety by intensifying fear and uncertainty. It strains relationships and hampers effective problem-solving. It's important not to judge yourself for having this thinking style, but to understand where it comes from and how it's trying to protect you from pain in the future. Healing the wound that created this thinking pattern can help foster open and honest communication with others, seeking understanding rather than rushing to conclusions.


Breaking free from anxiety requires understanding why these defense mechanisms have developed, how they are attempting to protect you from future pain, and healing the wounds that created them. By understanding the impact of black and white thinking, overgeneralization, and catastrophizing conflicts, you can take steps to cultivate more loving thought patterns. Remind yourself that change takes time, but with persistence and self-compassion, you can regain control over your mental health.

Take the first step towards healing your anxiety today. Start by identifying how these thought patterns might be attempting to help you, and develop self-compassion towards them. Remember, you have the power to heal your wounds and live a life with reduced anxiety. Reach out to me for more help with anxiety.

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