Cognitive distortions are exaggerated or irrational thought patterns that are believed to perpetuate the effects of psychological states, especially depression and anxiety. Cognitive psychologist Aaron T. Beck laid the groundwork for the study of these distortions, and his student David D. Burns continued research on the topic. Most notably, Burns’ 1989 book, “The Feeling Good Handbook”  presented important information on these thought patterns along with a proposal of how to eliminate them.
In 1972, cognitive psychologist Aaron T. Beck published the book, “Depression: Causes and Treatment.”  Beck was dissatisfied with the conventional Freudian treatment of depression, and he concluded that there was no empirical evidence for the success of Freudian psychoanalysis in the understanding or treatment of depression. In his book, Beck provided a comprehensive and empirically supported look at depression – its potential causes, symptoms, and treatments. In Chapter 2, “Symptomatology of Depression,” Beck describes certain “cognitive manifestations” of depression. The manifestations that Beck lists are low self-evaluation, negative expectations, self-blame and self-criticism, indecisiveness, and distortion of body image, and these are the pre-cursors to the distortions that Burns would later describe. 
In 1980, Burns published his book, “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy,”  (with a preface from Beck) and nine years later published “The Feeling Good Handbook” in 1989. These books delved deeper into the concept of the definition, development, and treatment of cognitive distortions, specifically in regards to individuals diagnosed with depression or anxiety disorders. This book marked the popularization of cognitive behavioral therapy.
The cognitive distortions listed below are categories of automatic thinking, and are to be distinguished from [logical fallacies]].
- All-or-nothing thinking: seeing things in black or white as opposed to shades of gray; thinking in terms of false dilemmas. Splitting involves using terms like "always", "every" or "never" when this is neither true, nor equivalent to the truth.
- Example: A dieter sees eating a bite of ice cream as a total failure that ruined his or her entire diet
- Overgeneralization: Making hasty generalizations from insufficient experiences and evidence.
- Example: A person is lonely and often spends most of her time at home. Her friends sometimes ask her to come out for dinner and meet new people. She feels it is useless to try to meet people. No one really could like her.
- Mental filter: in the midst of positivity or neutrality, focusing entirely on negative rather than seeing the whole picture
- Example: After receiving comments about a work presentation, a person ignores all of the positive feedback and focuses on the single critical comment
- Disqualifying the positive: positive events are discounted, leaving feelings of inadequacy
- Example: Even when a person does a good job, they deny their success and say it wasn't that good or impressive
- Jumping to conclusions: reaching preliminary conclusions (usually negative) from little (if any) evidence. Two specific subtypes are identified:
- Mind reading: Inferring a person's possible or probable (usually negative) thoughts from their behavior and nonverbal communication; assuming the worst without asking the person.
- Example: A student assumes the readers of their paper have already made up their mind concerning its topic, and therefore writing the paper is a pointless exercise
- Fortune-telling: predicting negative outcomes of events
- Example: Being convinced of failure before a test
- Magnification and minimization – Giving proportionally greater weight to a perceived failure, weakness or threat, or lesser weight to a perceived success, strength or opportunity, so the weight differs from that assigned to the event or thing by others. This is common enough in the normal population to popularize idioms such as "make a mountain out of a molehill". In depressed clients, often the positive characteristics of other people are exaggerated and negative characteristics are understated. There is one subtype of magnification:
- Catastrophizing – Giving greater weight to the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or experiencing a situation as unbearable or impossible when it is just uncomfortable.
- Emotional reasoning: presuming that negative feelings expose the true nature of things, and experiencing reality as a reflection of emotionally linked thoughts
- Should statements: patterns of moral reasoning based on what a person morally should or ought to do rather than the particular case the person is faced with, or conforming strenuously to ethical categorical imperatives which, by definition, "always apply". Albert Ellis termed this "musturbation".
- Example: After a performance, a pianist feels he or she should not have made so many mistakes. Or, while waiting for an appointment, thinking that the service provider should be on time, and feeling bitter and resentful as a result.
- Labeling and mislabeling: a more severe type of overgeneralization; attaching an irrational label, turning a person into nothing more than their actions. Rather than describing the specific behavior, the person assigns a label to someone or something that implies the character of that person or thing. Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that has a strong connotation of a person's evaluation of the event.
- Example: Instead of believing that you made a mistake, you believe that you are a loser. Or, someone who made a bad first impression is a "jerk".
- Personalization – Attribution of personal responsibility (or causal role or blame) for events over which a person has no control.
- Example: A mother whose child is struggling in school blames herself entirely for being a bad mother.
- Blaming: the opposite of personalization; holding other people responsible for the harm they cause, and especially for their intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress on us.
- Example: a spouse blames their husband or wife entirely for marital problems
- Fallacy of change - Relying on social control to obtain cooperative actions from another person.
- Always being right - Prioritizing truth or ethics over the feelings of another person.
Cognitive behavioral treatment 
Cognitive restructuring (CR) is a popular form of therapy used to identify and break down maladaptive cognitive distortions, typically used with individuals with depression.  CR therapies aim to eliminate “automatic thoughts” which create dysfunctional or negative views for individuals. Cognitive restructuring is the main component of Beck’s and Burn’s cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 
See also 
- Burns, David D. The Feeling Good Handbook: Using the New Mood Therapy in Everyday Life. New York: W. Morrow, 1989. Print.
- Beck, Aaron T. Depression; Causes and Treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1972. Print.
- Burns, David D. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. New York: Morrow, 1980. Print.
- Tagg, John (1996). "Cognitive Distortions". Retrieved October 24, 2011.
- Schimelpfening, Nancy. "You Are What You Think".
- Grohol, John. "15 Common Cognitive Distortions". Psych Central. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- Ryan C. Martin, Eric R. Dahlen. "Cognitive emotion regulation in the prediction of depression, anxiety, stress, and anger". Science Direct (November 2005): 1249–1260.
- Rush, A., M. Khatami, and Beck, A. "Cognitive and Behavior Therapy in Chronic Depression." Behavior Therapy 6.3 (1975): 398-404.