Overgeneralization is when a person views a single event as an unchanging rule and pattern. The person tends to view one negative event as a never-ending pattern of failure and disappointment. In overgeneralization, the perceived patterns of events all tend to be negative and a person tends to accept these negative patterns as true, even before they have evidence to support how true the patterns actually are. As a result, overgeneralization can lead to a person’s life getting smaller and smaller, due to beliefs about what they can’t do, don’t like doing, or have to avoid doing or else something bad will happen. Overgeneralization can lead to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety in social situation and excessive worry, which is why it is seen a lot in depression, social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder.
In order to overcome overgeneralization, the first step is to recognize when you are using overgeneralization thinking. Overgeneralization tends to be characterized by absolute types of thoughts and words, like “always”, “never” and “all the time”. When you catch yourself using overgeneralization, look for examples that show that the beliefs are not true as much as the overgeneralization would have you believe. Remember, there are absolutely no absolutes, so pay attention to absolute types of thinking.
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