OCD and Black-and-White Thinking

Rather than seeing that life comes in shades of gray, people who tend toward black-and-white thinking think in extremes. This is a rigid thinking pattern that doesn’t allow for the complexities of life.

Some examples include:

  • “I made a mistake. I always fail. I am a failure,” versus, “I sometimes make mistakes.”
  • “That person hurt me once, so they are an evil person,” versus, “That person does bad things sometimes.”
  • “It’s raining, so my day is totally ruined,” versus, “The rain is a shame, but there are still some good parts about the day.”

People who consistently fall into this type of thinking have trouble accepting uncertainty. They may use words like “never,” “always,” and “totally.”

While everybody falls into extreme thinking sometimes, mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and OCD can mean it’s very difficult to move away from.

All-or-nothing thinking can have negative impacts on your life. For example, it could cause you to walk away from salvageable friendships after the first conflict, or you might quit a job as soon as you dislike something about it.

For people with OCD, extreme thinking can keep you locked in a self-perpetuating cycle of obsessions and compulsions.