190: How to Crush Negative Thoughts: Overgeneralization

This is the third in our podcasts series on the best techniques to crush each of the ten cognitive distortions from my book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Today, we focus on Overgeneralization. There are two common forms of Overgeneralization:

  1. You generalize from some specific flaw or failure to your “Self.” So, instead of telling yourself that you failed at this or that, you tell yourself that you are “a failure” or “a loser.”
  2. You generalize from right now to the future, using words like “always” or “never.” For example, you may tell yourself, “Trisha (or Jack) rejected me. This always happens! I must be unlovable. I’ll be alone forever.”

Overgeneralization is also one of the most common cognitive distortions, and it causes depression as well as anxiety. I believe it is impossible to feel depressed or hopeless without Overgeneralization.

The antidote to Overgeneralization is called “Let’s Be Specific.” Instead of thinking of your self as a “bad mother” or “bad father,” you can focus on the specific thing you did that regret, like shouting at your kids when you were upset. Then you can think of a specific plan to correct this problem, like talking things over with your kids and letting them know that you love them and feel badly that you snapped at them.

David and Rhonda also talk about the idea that abstract concepts like “worthless” or “bad” or “worthwhile” or “good” human beings are meaningless. Good and bad thoughts, feelings and behaviors certainly exist, but there is no way to measure or judge the value of a human being.

In the next podcast in this series, David and Rhonda will discuss the TEAM-CBT techniques that can especially helpful for the next distortion, Mental Filter and Discounting the Positive.

David D. Burns, MD / Rhonda Barovsky, PsyD


You can reach Dr. Burns at Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and specializes in TEAM-CBT for depression, anxiety, and relationship problems. She can be reached at

Today’s featured photo is courtesy of Nancy Mueller–

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This is the cover of my new book, Feeling Great. It will be released in September of 2020, but you will soon be able to pre-order it on Amazon, possibly by the time you read this! 

Need Training or CE Credits?

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The Cognitive Distortion Starter Kit:
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May 17, 2020 | 7 CE hours. $135 (online only)

TEAM-CBT includes more than 100 powerful techniques to change the distorted thoughts that trigger negative emotions. But what techniques should I select for my patient who feels depressed, anxious, or angry?

As you know, in my book, Feeling Good, I listed the ten most common cognitive distortions, like All-or-Nothing Thinking, Should Statements, Emotional Reasoning, and more, and you probably use that list all the time in your clinical work. But do you know which techniques work the best for each distortion?

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Rapid Recovery from Anxiety Disorders–
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June 4 – 5, 2020, Seattle, Washington

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Watch for the Awesome

December Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference

Anaheim, December 9 – 13, 2020

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It is always spectacular and I’ll be presenting, too!

Details TBA