1. Home
  2.  → 
  3. Psychology of Mental Health
  4.  → Cognitive Traps

Cognitive Traps

Cognitive Traps & How To Change Them

Our psychological training programmes help to identify and change ‘cognitive traps’ through the use of a range of practical tools and exercises.

But what actually are cognitive traps?

Cognitive traps are ways of thinking about situations that seem to solve problems but produce the opposite effect and generally make matters worse and are very difficult to get out of.

When you follow our mental health prevention & wellness programmes you will systematically work through these cognitive traps identifying which ones you ‘have’ and then learning new tools and strategies to change them.

The most significant cognitive traps are:

  • Catastrophising – Making mountains out of molehills
  • All or Nothing Thinking – Ignoring the middle-ground and thinking in ‘polarised’ terms
  • Fortune Telling – Trying to predict the future
  • Mind Reading – I know what you’re thinking!
  • Emotional Reasoning – Feelings aren’t facts
  • Generalisations – Always, Never and Everybody
  • Labelling – Successful / Failure
  • Imperative Thinking – I need to, I have to and I must
  • Low Frustration Tolerance – It’s too hard I can’t stand it anymore
  • Personalisation – it’s always my fault when things go wrong
  • Blaming – looking for explanations that exclude your own responsibility

Each of these cognitive traps ‘develop’ over many years.

Sometimes they are learnt from significant others in our early developmental years (learned behaviours) and others are developed as a result of the faulty processing of experiences that then become habitual ways of thinking.

Fortunately, habits can always be changed using specific processes and lots of effort.

Cognitive traps explained

All of the cognitive traps that we address at Prevental Healthcare are really nothing more than ‘habitual’ forms of thinking.

In other words, despite the fact that each particular trap may have been adopted in order to ‘make sense’ of a situation, or perhaps developed to be able to cope with an unpleasant feeling, the chances are that the original ‘need’ for this type of thinking has long since gone, but the thinking trap has remained.

In fact, it has simply become a habit that happens ‘automatically’ without the need to consciously ‘engage’ the style in the first place.

Recognising this can be extremely helpful as research shows, quite clearly, that habits can be changed relatively easily by:

(1) becoming aware of the cognitive trap to start with

(2) identification of a more helpful way of thinking

(3) deliberative replacement of the old with the new for a period of a few weeks

By adopting this process, old habitual cognitive traps become ‘extinct’ and are replaced with the new, more helpful cognition.

Why managing cognitive traps is useful

What most people don’t realise is that the vast majority of emotions that we experience, almost regardless of what those emotions are, are ‘created’ as a direct consequence of a thought (or cognition) in our minds.

This is the basic premise of ‘cognitive’ interventions – the idea that emotions and behaviours are the direct result of a thought.

Whilst it IS true that some emotions are capable of being expressed without a conscious thought, the vast majority of emotional responses are indeed caused by ‘thinking’ something first.

Crucially, therefore, the most effective way of changing the way that we ‘feel’ is to change the way that we think, and by identifying and changing the most common cognitive traps that people ‘fall into’, radical changes to the way a person feels can be achieved.

Why Choose Prevental?

Paul is a highly experienced, academically qualified psychologist with over 30 years experience of working with people to overcome life challenges and achieve life goals.

Read about Paul here

We are an approved supplier of mental health support services to the NHS Black Country Clinical Commissioning Groups who we have been working with since late 2017.

We have been helping improve people's mental health in the West Midlands since 2009 and have more than 30,000 hours of clinical experience.

Prevental Healthcare are expert mental health professionals dedicated to helping you and your employees thrive.

Want to find out more?

Prevental Healthcare Ltd.

Registered office:

Maypole House

Maypole Street


South Staffs


email: info@preventalhealthcare.com

Company Reg. 13061303