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Apophenia: Mistaken Connections

Apophenia: The tendency to make connections between seemingly unrelated things.

This is very often a topic of conversation in a therapy office. As a counselor, I've found myself trying to dismantle the connections my clients might make between unrelated things, events, of how they are treated by others; mainly friends within their friend group.

One of the most effective ways to challenge this mode way of how an individual perceives events, things, and people, is to look at the evidence. I encourage my clients at times to consider the totality of their experiences instead of viewing these things in a vacuum. By providing a logical, rationale way of viewing the "connections" they perceive, this can alleviate mood dysregulation symptoms they might be experiencing. Sometimes these symptoms can be situational, but at times could be a part of larger perceptual struggles they have that exacerbate their depression or anxieties. We, in the mental health industry, refer to these perceptual abnormalities as maladaptive thinking strategies or more commonly as thinking errors. Here are just a few:

1. All or Nothing fallacy:

Thinking of things as black and white. Also known as dichotomous thinking patterns. Thinking in terms of good or bad. Right or wrong. This forced choice doesn't leave much space for grey areas.

2. Catastrophizing

The ability to jump to the worst conclusion with regards to any event. You paint, in your mind, the darkest picture of any event in a way to prepare yourself for the worst possible outcome. I once had a client report to me that if he had OCD, then he would end up homeless and without any family to care for him.

3. Fortune-telling

Already knowing the outcome of any particular behavior or opportunity before you even have a chance to engage in it. "What's the point of applying to the job? I'll never get it anyways."

4. Overgeneralization

One failure at any particular behavior or event is generalized into all behaviors or events that are similar in nature. This often is inculcated in the development of phobias. For example: You receive a bad grade on a math test and conclude that you are horrible at math and will probably never be good at math (...yes, that's a little bit of fortune-telling as well. Thinking errors like to invite their friends along for the ride.)

By providing clients with a new perspective, and addressing some of the evidence we know to be true, I work with each individual to form a new way of making meaningful connections based in logic and rationale. We can also can address the errors in thinking and reshape them into more adaptive, helpful thinking patterns with some attention and practice. Addressing these errors in thinking can be beneficial for every individual.

If you need a new way of looking at things that occur in your work, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me at 405-513-0282 or email me at

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