The 5 Common Thinking Errors Causing Teen Stress...


Does your teen complain ‘nothing ever works out for me!’ or freaks out she’ll end up ‘the lonely lady with 9 cats’ just because a boy didn’t say yes to being her Formal date?

Yep, I’m sure these examples sound familiar - and they’re what psychologists call, ‘thinking errors’;  

an inaccurate or unreasonable way to perceive a situation which are a major cause of upsetting emotion and self-defeating behaviour.

So whenever your teen is caught feeling intense negative emotion (anxious, guilty, depressed etc.), it is helpful to look out for any thought errors they might be making and encourage question these thoughts to find a more balanced point of view that reduces their stress and increases their ability to find solutions to their problems (rather than dwell in the misery of it!).

Here are the 5 most common thinking errors you need to be aware of…

1. Black and White Thinking

You see everything in terms of good or bad, no in-betweens.

E.g. You either aced the exam or completely bombed. You’re either popular or a loser. Your teacher either never makes a mistake or is always stuffing things up.

THE CHALLENGE: Look out for extremes.  It’s important to remind yourself that nothing in life is 100 percent like this or like that - Most things are somewhere in between.

Empowering Questions - Is it really that bad, or am I seeing things in black & white? What’s a more balanced way I could view this situation?

2. Filtering

When you zoom in on the negative aspects of a situation, and ignore or dismiss all the positive aspects

E.g. Your parents separated and you now spend every 2nd weekend at your Dad’s. He lives closer to some of your friends, has a pet dog and a bigger bedroom for you, but you stay focused on the negatives like having to pack your bags or travel further from school.

THE CHALLENGE: Consider the whole picture.

Empowering Questions - Am I seeing the whole picture here? What are the positives that I hadn’t noticed?

3. Catastrophising

Exaggerating the negative consequences when things go wrong and imagining things are or will be disastrous.

E.g. Going into panic after your laptop crashes and start thinking ‘I’ve lost all of my hard work! I’m never going to be able to catch up. I’m going to fail now and not get into uni. That means I’ll be jobless and end up a homeless person on the street”. When you turn your laptop back on, it had auto-saved most of your assignment and you only lost a few paragraphs of it.

THE CHALLENGE – Don’t jump to catastrophic conclusions.

Empowering Questions - What is the likelihood of the worst-case scenario actually happening?  If I was being more realistic, how would I think about this situation?

4. Overgeneralising

Exaggerating how often negative things in our lives e.g. mistakes, failures, disapproval. ‘I always make mistakes..’ ‘Everyone always does this..’ ‘Nothing ever works out for me..’

E.g. You are don’t get selected on the student leadership team at school. You think ‘Whenever I put myself out there, it never works out.’’

THE CHALLENGE – Be specific and avoid using sweeping statements such as “always” and “never”

Empowering Questions – Is this really true in every situation? What is at least one example in my life where the things I am telling myself aren’t true?

5. Shoulding and Musting

When you put unreasonable demands and pressure on yourself, on others and the world to be a certain way. You tend to say, “I must… I should… You must… They should..”.

THE CHALLENGE - Adopt more flexible expectations by shifting ‘shoulds’ to preferences.

Empowering questions - Is it helpful to think that the world should be exactly how I want it? What if I used the words “I would prefer..” instead, how would that help change how I think and feel about things?

Truth be told, it’s not just teens who struggle with these thought errors - we all do.

So I encourage you to pay more attention to when you may be slipping into these self-defeating thought loops and ask yourself the same empowering questions to set your focus towards finding a more realistic and empowering view on things… Whilst we’re not here to be  ‘saviours’ for teens - but we can definitely be their guide as to how we can always shift our perspective to change how we feel for the better.

We always have a choice.

If your teen is refusing take on board your offers for help with this, have you thought about jumping on a free mini coaching session with me? You don't have to stay stuck frustrated that you can't get through to them, because I'll give you one tool you can put to practice right away to better connect with your teen. I only offer 3 free sessions per week, so book in your spot on my calendar here.