Bored woman sitting on carNegativity, or a disagreeable, worrisome outlook on life, can occur in anyone, although persistent negative thoughts may be linked to an individual’s social well-being or mental or physical health.

What Causes Negativity?

A person who frequently has negative thoughts may be experiencing them as a result of past experiences, because individuals can often develop and vocalize negativity as a form of self-preservation. Negativity also might occur in conjunction with a mental health condition: Anxiety and depression are both conditions characterized by a tendency to dwell on troubling or dark thoughts, and adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity may also have recurring negative thoughts. An individual who faces health issues, especially conditions affecting the ability to participate in activities he or she once enjoyed, may also develop a pessimistic outlook.

Negativity is often fleeting, occurring when an individual experiences a period of difficulty in life and resolving itself once matters improve, but it can also take root in a person, affecting personal relationships and daily activities. A person who frequently complains and criticizes others may find it difficult to maintain friendships, for example.

The Negativity Bias

The mind’s tendency to react to negative things more quickly and to place a stronger emphasis on bad occurrences rather than good ones is known as the “negativity bias.” This bias can perpetuate negativity, and a person who dwells on bad things that have happened may find it difficult to think about the present or future in an optimistic manner. It is a common human trait to recall negative experiences more readily than positive experiences.

The desire to avoid negative experiences also leads people to select options that appear to have fewer negative results, whether they actually do or not. For example, smear campaigns seem to prey on the human tendency toward negativity by publishing negative material about a specific person or cause that allows consumers to make a snap judgment, without engaging in further research on the topic that might offer a more informed perspective.

Therapy for Negativity

Therapeutic techniques such as journaling and meditation may be of benefit to individuals who experience negativity, as written or mental consideration of one’s emotions may facilitate an understanding of what lies behind those emotions. Talking therapies, which involve talking through one’s feelings with a therapist, have also been shown to have an effect in resolving negative thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapies may also be beneficial to some individuals experiencing persistent negativity. Because this emotion can occur as a result of certain mental health conditions, treating the underlying issue first may prove to be an effective method to resolve an individual’s negativity.


  1. Burak, J. (2014, September 4). Praise Feels Good, But Negativity Is Stronger. Retrieved from
  2. Chernoff, A. (2012, August 8). 10 Ways to Defend Yourself Against Negativity. Retrieved from
  3. Sherman, C. (n.d.). How Cognitive Behavior Therapy Can Stop Negativity. Retrieved from
  4. Talking Therapies. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Last Updated: 01-8-2016

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  • Ann m

    Ann m

    December 16th, 2017 at 8:42 PM

    I worry about murders rapes killers

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