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What is Overgeneralization?

If you have social anxiety, you have most likely experienced overgeneralization. Something bad happens and we transfer that feeling to other situations in our lives. These situations may have some similarities but are still separate experiences. For example, if you gave a poor presentation, you may think to yourself, “I am terrible at speaking in front of a group of people, I can never speak publicly without messing it up.” You now dread every situation where you must speak in front of a group, knowing that it will never go well.

If you have social anxiety, you may combat social experiences with negative thinking. Many people with social anxiety struggle with overgeneralization, a course of thinking where you apply one experience and generalize to all experiences, including future events. Overgeneralization often includes words like “always” or “never”. When you experience overgeneralization, you may view any negative experience as a pattern of mistakes that can never be broken.

Overgeneralization can negatively impact your life and impact your daily routine. These negative thoughts can be self- limiting and keeping you from your full potential. Negative thoughts can come out as “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t do that.” These thoughts can keep you from moving forward in your life, such as furthering your education, career, and social life.  Even though overgeneralization can be a debilitating symptom to social anxiety, with the help of a mental health therapist you can learn to reframe your perceptions of these anxiety-provoking events.

Reframing Negative Thoughts

Reframing is a process where you identify negative and unhelpful thoughts and replace them with positive ones changing the way you view them. Reframing is a great tool to manage overgeneralizations and to combat social anxiety. You can practice reframing by following these steps:

Identifying Negative Thoughts and Patterns

Think about the times when you dread doing an activity because you think it will go poorly. Identify the negative thoughts you tell yourself, write them down or draw them out in a journal. Once you recognize the negativity it will be easier to recognize the pattern of thoughts.

Challenge the Thought

Look at your journal and ask yourself, “are these words true?” Would someone else view these the same way? Challenge your thoughts and find the positive in the events that caused these negative thoughts and feelings.

Positive Self-Talk

Be kind to yourself. When the negative thoughts come in, use positive self-talk to counter social anxiety. For example, the next time you have a presentation, instead of thinking, “I always fumble my words, I can’t speak in front of people”, replace it with “I know the subject I am presenting, and I am more prepared to give a great speech.” Reframing the negative thoughts to a positive can help with social anxiety, and help you get through the challenging events. Utilizing positive self-talk to challenge yourself instead of dreading anxiety-provoking events. Reframing negative events can be a great tool to combat those negative thoughts and work through social anxiety.

Overgeneralization can be a difficult symptom of social anxiety, limiting yourself and impacting how you interact with others. Utilizing the reframing techniques and the use of positive self-talk, you can take control of those negative thoughts, become more confident and create a life worth living. 

 The Truism Center offers CBT therapy for those who want to overcome social anxiety. Reach out today. Therapy doesn’t have to last forever but the benefits will. Email us today at