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

  • Leave a Comment
  • Ann m

    December 16th, 2017 at 8:42 PM

    I worry about murders rapes killers

  • Joe

    August 10th, 2019 at 4:05 PM

    Ann that is not what it means

  • Grace

    October 27th, 2018 at 1:50 PM

    I feel empty inside, I’ve lost myself and I can’t find who I am anymore. It feels like I’m living behind a glass wall, I can see life going on around me, but I can’t join in or be a part of it. I feel invisible, and although empty, I feel overwhelmed and filled with an ongoing ever feeling emptiness. Maybe this is how my life should be. Perhaps it’s better to hold onto a life filled with nothing, than to live a life afraid of loosing what you have.

  • Mary

    February 15th, 2019 at 8:41 AM

    you’re not alone Grace. i feel the exact same way some times. But here’s some advice i can’t take myself. Take the leap. As dumb as it sounds, have faith. If you live life behind a glass wall, you’re not really living it at all. We only get one shot at this life, Grace. And that means something, there’s a reason we have only one life, it’s so we can make the most of it, it’s no much, but it’s what we’ve got, and we have to make do. You can’t spend all your life being afraid, you have an opportunity many people wish they had, people who also lived their lives behind glass walls, then they realized that this was not how they wanted their lives to be, but by then, it was too late. Take the leap, Grace. And i hope you find comfort in the fact that there are countless others who took that leap, and countless others who wish they could take that leap. Be a guide for them grace, show them that it does get better, and that life is better outside the glass wall.

  • Mary

    February 15th, 2019 at 8:33 AM

    when i feel, i feel fully. but lately, i find myself zoning out and thinking about my future, about my seemingly meaningless life, after this, i feel empty. Like there is literally a hole inside of me, and it consumes me until all i can think about is this hole. I have friends, and i love them to bits, but sometimes i feel detached, like i’m a bystander just watching everything from a distance. I’m very negative and i say mean things, knowing that i’m pushing them away. But i can’t stop. The alternative is much worse. I feel like a wuss, nothing life threatening or traumatizing has happened to me, but i’m scared of letting people in and letting them see who i really am. I’m so afraid of being hurt, its not even a joke. So i hurt them before they can hurt me. It’s easier to be mean and brash than it is to be kind and loving. Sometimes i want to be kind and loving, but most times i think i’m better this way.

  • beth

    May 2nd, 2020 at 10:50 PM

    I have been verbally and emotionally abused,and then the therapist tells me that I have a negativity issue.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.


* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.