Understanding The Vicious Cycle

The Vicious Cycle

The fundamental principle of CBT is that our thoughts determine our feelings, which determine our behaviour. The aim is to change our thoughts (core beliefs), which initially set the cycle in motion.

It is called the vicious cycle because faulty or irrational thoughts end up causing behaviour that adversely affects us and those around us. The effects of our behaviour then reinforce our thoughts, keeping us trapped in a loop we cannot break out of.

There will always be a cycle, because that’s how our brain works. The idea is to change it from a vicious one into a beneficial one.

This short video explains this cycle better than words on a page, so hopefully you will get a better understanding after watching it.


If you have the time, this next video runs for 20 minutes, but goes into greater detail about how our emotions affect our behaviour and ways we can challenge our beliefs. While primarily aimed at teenagers, the same principles apply to adults in exactly the same way, as the narrator explains with her own driving of her car.