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Blame

Rethink This Common Cognitive Distortion

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Updated October 22, 2013

Learn to overcome you negative thinking patterns and put an end to blame.

Definition

Blame is a type of cognitive distortion, or habitual negative thinking pattern, which can reinforce feelings of dissatisfaction, sadness, and fear. Cognitive therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts can dictate our emotional well-being. Therefore, pessimistic thoughts can contribute to symptoms of depression and anxiety.

People diagnosed with panic disorder often struggle with faulty thinking. Blaming occurs when the person takes their attention off the actual problem and blames themselves or others for the situation.  People who experience frequent panic attacks may get upset with themselves for having this symptom of panic disorder. Such thoughts only add to feelings of self-defeat and contribute to avoidance behavior. Instead of self-blame, the person would be better off focusing their attention on ways to effectively manage their condition, such as developing relaxation techniques.  

Below are some examples of blaming and ways in which you can learn to rethink this cognitive distortion.  

Examples

Sheila suffers from panic disorder with agoraphobia and rarely leaves her home. She would like to be closer to her extended family, but has had a hard time explaining her condition to them. She has spent the last months worrying about whether or not she would be able to attend her niece’s wedding. When her niece’s wedding day arrives, Shelia feels too anxious to go. She tells herself, “I am so pathetic. This is all my fault. I should have known I wouldn’t be brave enough to go. I blame myself for the distance between me and my family.”

Ben has been taking evening classes at a local college. After work, he decided to spend a few hours of his evening working on his class assignments. Ben was having a hard time figuring out the answers to one of his assignments. He became so frustrated that he considered dropping the class. Ben thought to himself, “ I can’t understand these questions because my instructor is so terrible. It is his fault that I am dropping this class!” Ben did not have any complaints about the instructor until he was unable to do this one assignment.   

Rethink It

Instead of facing her issues with agoraphobia, Sheila is blaming herself for not attending the wedding. Her inability to go to the wedding is a symptom of her condition. Rather than spending months worrying about the wedding, Sheila could have taken that time to begin to work through her issues, such as looking into treatment options for panic disorder. That does not mean that she would have been able to attend the wedding, but she would have working toward her goals instead of blaming herself for her condition.

Ben is similarly using blame to avoid handling his issues. He is blaming the class instructor for his own inability to complete the class assignment. Ben is failing to see his other options. He could email the instructor to ask for help or take a break and come back to the assignment after he’s had some time to relax. Blaming others will only create a temporary distraction instead of a permanent solution.  

The tendency to blame oneself or others often occurs at times overwhelming issues arise. Blame is a way to avoid dealing with the problem. When issues arise in your life, notice if you tend to blame yourself or others instead of coping with the issues at hand. Do you blame yourself or others for your struggle with panic attacks? It can be very difficult to do, but sometimes we need to learn to how forgive both ourselves and others. This can help us to live happier and more productive lives. When we let go of blame, we are able to move forward and work on our personal goals and prevail over our issues.

Sources:

Burns, D. D. “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy,” Avon Books: New York, 1999.

Burns, D.D. “When Panic Attacks: The New Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life” Broadway Books: New York, 2006.

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