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Discounting the Positive

Defeat Negative Thinking Patterns

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Updated October 10, 2013

People with panic disorder are often prone to negative thinking. 'Discounting the positive' is one type of negative thinking pattern that often affects those with anxiety disorders. Learn how to overcome this common cognitive distortion.

Definition

Discounting the positive is a faulty thinking pattern that can contribute to a person’s negativity. Known as cognitive distortions, negative thinking patterns like this one can contribute to depression and anxiety-related conditions, such as social anxiety disorder and panic disorder.  

When a person falls into the cognitive distortion of discounting the positive, they overlook their personal achievements and disregard their positive attributes. They may deny their success, believing that it was just luck or chance. People who discount the positive rarely feel a healthy sense of pride or satisfaction.

Listed below are a few examples of discounting the positive and ways to defeat this habitual negative thinking. 

Example

Reggie was recently recognized at work for his contributions to the company. He was awarded a gift certificate and small plaque as an expression of gratitude and appreciation from his coworkers. Reggie felt uncomfortable with this award and refused to celebrate with his coworkers after work. He brushed off the recognition, stating that he didn’t feel like he had done anything special to deserve it. Reggie hid his plaque in a drawer and never mentioned it to his family and friends.

Kate has been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, a condition characterized by frequent feelings of fear and worry. Since being prescribed Prozac by her family physician and practicing relaxation techniques on her own, Kate has noticed a decline in her bothersome symptoms. At her next doctor’s visit, Kate tell her doctor that she has been experiencing less morning anxiety and has been able to get a good night’s rest. Her doctor compliments her for regularly taking her medication and practicing her coping techniques. Kate disqualifies what her doctor said and regrets mentioning her improvements. She feels that it must all be due to the medication and ignores her doctor’s encouragement.

Rethink it

Reggie’s low self-esteem kept him from enjoying his award. Instead of trying to deny his recognition, Reggie could have expressed gratitude for it. He could of thought about how nice it was of his coworkers to have gotten him a plaque and politely thanked them. Reggie may want to try to reconsider his stance and realize that he did do a lot of extra work that warranted the award.

Kate was unable to recognize how her hard work has contributed to her improvements. She was disqualifying her own positive attributes and personal achievements, such as how she successfully developed her coping techniques. Kate could have acknowledged the positive advancements she has made toward recovery and thanked the doctor for complimenting her strides forward on her treatment goals.  

Feeling some pride about our achievements is not the same as being arrogant. We each have unique talents and we deserve to be recognized for our successes. The next time someone compliments you for your attributes or accomplishments, allow yourself to feel grateful and thank the person for their recognition. Over time, you will begin to have a more balanced perspective, recognizing that you have many positive qualities.

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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