Is Toxic Self-Talk Making You Sick? Check for These 5 `Faulty Thoughts’

Our “self-talk” is that chatter that goes on in our head. It is that ongoing, internal dialogue, which pretty much directly reflects our conscious perceptions and reactions to events. Whether we realize it or not, we talk to ourselves all the time, and the impact of this dialogue on our mood, outlook and emotions, cannot be overstated.

The way we perceive everyday events, and what we say to ourselves, can at times be helpful. Healthy, optimistic self-talk can enable us to effectively navigate our way through complex or challenging circumstances and events, and it also facilitates effective interpersonal interactions with others.

However, our self-talk can also potentially negatively influence our perceptions of events and interpersonal interactions, and it can inevitably also have a toxic impact on our emotional and psychological health.

Research suggests that, in order to maintain a balanced mood and to avoid setting ourselves up for adverse mental health symptoms, we need to keep our self-talk healthy and fairly optimistic.

Check out the following 5 “Faulty Thoughts” that are widely evidenced to trigger and /or reinforce symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, anger and low self-esteem:

1. All or Nothing Thinking: you view events in black and white terms, where events and those around you are viewed as all good or all bad. There is no grey in your perceptions. If you don’t do a perfect job, you must be a failure. If someone does something that you don’t like or agree with he/she must be a bad person.

2. Mental Filter: You pick out a single negative detail or event and magnify or dwell on it exclusively so that your perception of everything becomes jaded, like a drop of ink that discolors the entire glass of water.

3. Disqualifying the Positive: You reject positive experiences and events, discounting them for some reason or another, and in this way you are able to maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by everyday experience. For example, you may do a great job on a project, but when your peers compliment you, you negate it by putting downplaying your achievement saying “anyone” could have done it.

4. Emotional Reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it… therefore it must be a fact!”

5. Should Statements: You try to motivate yourself and others with “shoulds” and “should nots” as if you and others need to be “guilted” into doing everything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders, and the emotional consequence is always guilt. The consequence of directing “should” statements towards oneself and others, is that you are frequently left feeling angry, frustrated and resentful.

Taking a step back and observing your self-talk is definitely a worthwhile endeavor. A healthy internal dialogue inevitably translates into a more balanced mood, helps promote more functional responses to events, and inevitably reduces the amount of stress we experience each day.

Engaging in healthier self-talk can be as simple as being more aware of your internal dialogue and persistently challenging any faulty or unhelpful thoughts that arise.

So start regularly checking for these 5 “Faulty Thoughts” and commit to developing healthier self-talk today!

Post it note photo available from Shutterstock

Is Toxic Self-Talk Making You Sick? Check for These 5 `Faulty Thoughts’

Elena Hey, MAPS

Elena Hey, MAPS is a registered psychologist working in private practice (, and a sessional lecturer in Educational Psychology at Charles Sturt University, Australia. Elena has worked with children and adolescents for the last 20 years in the Health and Education sectors, as a Counselling Psychologist, Teacher and Educational Researcher. Elena is passionate about supporting and treating young people with adjustment and trauma-related conditions, and she also holds a Masters qualification in forensic mental health.


APA Reference
Hey, E. (2015). Is Toxic Self-Talk Making You Sick? Check for These 5 `Faulty Thoughts’. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Dec 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Dec 2015
Published on All rights reserved.