All-Or-Nothing Thinking

Another thing that fear does is cause its victims to think in extremes.

People with OCPD have all-or-nothing thinking (also known as “splitting”) as a result of their fear.

This cognitive distortion even occurs in the more isolated situation of my arachnophobic friend who comes across a spider in my bathroom. Whenever he sees a spider, he feels that he must always do something to protect himself. If he does not, he thinks he is being unsafe. According to his thoughts, his recklessness is an invitation to the spider to come to him, bite him, inject its deadly poison into his bloodstream, lay thousands of its baby spider eggs inside his skin, attack him while he’s sleeping, kill him, etc.

In the same way that my friend thinks in extremes about the consequences of not controlling spiders, people with OCPD think in extremes about the consequences of not controlling the world around them. People with OCPD believe that they must always do [insert preventative measure] in order to prevent [insert worst case scenario] from ever happening. After repeatedly using these always and never statements and black and white terms for so much of their life, their brain develops such strong neural pathways of this pattern of thinking that it becomes an automatic way in which their mind operates. People with OCPD then forget that there exists an infinite number of other options in between the two extremes and almost lose the ability to see the middle ground.


When others do something that upsets you, before allowing your mind to think of completely inaccurate poisonous thoughts, ask them non-offensively (so that they do not get defensive) why they did what they did. Listen to them and ignore your thoughts! Believe their words over your what your mind tells you. A more direct but still non-offensive way to find out if your extreme thoughts are false is to say, “I’m sure you don’t mean to offend me, but because I struggle with all-or-nothing thinking, my mind tells me that… that’s not true, right?”

Understand that your OCPD friend has probably lost the ability to see the middle ground. Unless they think you are smarter than them, which rarely is the case, telling the OCPD person the middle ground will not be effective at all. Instead, you have to lead your OCPD friend to find the middle ground on his or her own through questions. Ask your OCPD friend, “is that really the case? Or could it be that…?”

First, understand that your type of thinking is not accurate. Every time a thought pops into your head, ask yourself, “am I thinking in extremes right now?” Every time you make a decision, ask yourself, “am I being extreme in my decision-making?” Begin to exercise your mind to think in between the extremes. Yes, it already takes enough time for you to evaluate two options, but for your own good, you need to take some extra time to include more options in your evaluation.

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7 thoughts on “All-Or-Nothing Thinking

  1. kayleecat says:

    I can totally relate to this. Is it a case of questioning your thoughts for OCPD over and over again? I think I have OCPD and because I think ‘all or nothing’ then at that moment in time for whatever I am thinking, I cant challenge it. Its a difficult one.

  2. Fcuk!! I am literally stunned! Never ever did I ever in my life of 23 years, could find a description so appropriate that, it instantaneously felt that everything was written exclusively for me! Your blog is the most fantastic peace of evidence , of a quotation by Mahatma Gandhi , which goes like this:
    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    (—Mahatma Gandhi)

    Thanks Man; No Wonder You must already changed a few hundred lives! Keep up the Spirit! Cheers! :)

  3. well if u r obsessed with work that u do upto a certain level then it is a gift but if u r obsessed with people then it is a curse

    • Daniel Kim says:

      If you’re obsessed with work, then you probably neglect people. If you’re obsessed with people, you probably neglect work. There’s always neglect somewhere else as a result of obsession in anything. I don’t think obsession itself is a gift in any situation.

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