google-site-verification: google4283fb30fde0af74.html
top of page


Part I:  Description

Overgeneralization: When Isolated Events Become Sweeping Beliefs

Overgeneralization is a cognitive distortion where we take a single or limited experience and draw overly broad, negative conclusions about ourselves, others, or the world. It involves turning isolated incidents into absolute rules or beliefs.

Examples of Overgeneralization

  • Failing one test and concluding, "I'm a failure at everything."

  • Having a negative interaction and deciding, "Nobody likes me."

  • Making a mistake and believing, "I'll never get this right."

Why Overgeneralization is Harmful

  • Inaccurate Beliefs: Leads to distorted views of reality.

  • Negative Emotions: Fuels self-doubt, anxiety, and hopelessness.

  • Limits Potential: Discourages trying new things and taking healthy risks.

Overcoming Overgeneralization

  • Challenge the Thought: Look for evidence that contradicts the overgeneralization.

  • Perspective Shift: Consider alternative explanations or focus on positives.

  • Be Kind to Yourself: Practice self-compassion and avoid harsh self-criticism.

Part II:  Common Questions

Q1: What's the difference between overgeneralization and generalization?

A: Generalization is the ability to draw reasonable conclusions from specific experiences, a valuable part of learning. Overgeneralization takes this too far, turning isolated incidents into rigid, inaccurate beliefs.

Q2: How can I recognize overgeneralization in my thinking?

A:  Watch for these signs:

  • Absolute Language: Words like "always," "never," "everyone," "no one".

  • Jumping to Conclusions: Making sweeping judgments from limited data.

  • Minimizing Positives: Focusing on a negative experience while discounting successes.

Q3: Why do people overgeneralize?

A: There are several reasons:

  • Cognitive Bias: Our brains seek patterns, sometimes leading to oversimplification.

  • Emotional Reactivity: Negative emotions make it harder to think rationally.

  • Past Experiences: Unresolved hurts might fuel a tendency to overgeneralize.

Q4: How can I help someone who overgeneralizes?

A: Here's how to be supportive:

  • Gently Challenge: Ask, "Is that always true?" or "Can you think of exceptions?"

  • Focus on Evidence: Help them gather a broader perspective to counter the overgeneralization.

  • Suggest Self-Help Resources: Share information on cognitive distortions and how to overcome them.

  • Encourage Professional Help: If overgeneralization is severe, suggest therapy.

Q5: How does overgeneralization relate to mental health conditions?

A: Overgeneralization is a common feature in conditions like:

  • Anxiety Disorders: Fueling worry and catastrophic thinking.

  • Depression: Exaggerating negatives and contributing to feelings of hopelessness.

  • Personality Disorders: Can lead to rigid views about oneself or others.

Part III:  Additional Resources

Books about Overgeneralization

"Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy" by David Burns:  

  • A classic guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which addresses overgeneralization and other cognitive distortions.

"Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks" by Seth Gillihan: 

  • Offers a structured CBT-based program for overcoming negative thinking patterns.

"Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think" by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky: 

  • Another practical CBT workbook focused on changing thought patterns.

Websites about Overgeneralization

  1. The Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Provides information on cognitive distortions, including overgeneralization, and resources for finding CBT therapists.

  2. Psychology Today: Search their blog for articles on overgeneralization, its impact on mental health, and techniques to combat it.

  3. Verywell Mind: Offers articles explaining overgeneralization and other cognitive distortions, within the larger context of mental wellbeing.

Online Resources about Overgeneralization

  1. "Overcoming Overgeneralization" Worksheet: Many therapy-related websites offer free worksheets to help you identify and challenge overgeneralizations.

  2. Moodgym: An online CBT program with modules targeting negative thought patterns, helpful for addressing overgeneralization.

Other Resources about Overgeneralization

  1. CBT Podcasts: Search for podcasts about cognitive distortions or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that explore overgeneralization.

  2. Support Groups:  Online or local support groups for anxiety or depression might provide a place to share experiences and learn coping techniques for overgeneralization.

Part IV:  Disclaimer

These results were highly selected, curated, and edited by The Nexus Inititiative. To make this amount of complimentary content available at a cost-effective level for our site visitors and clients, we have to rely on, and use, resources like Google Gemini and other similar services.

bottom of page