Catastrophizing is a particular type of irrational cognitive style of thinking. It is the interpretation and perception of events through an extremely negative, or catastrophic, lens. With this style of thinking people are prone to rapidly jumping to a worst-case conclusion or scenario. These conclusions fuel a great deal of distress, anxiety, or even panic. Catastrophizing has been linked to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia, OCD, and social phobia. How some people come to think in this manner is not always clear. Some people may pick it up from role-modeling family members or peers. Others seem to come on their own. Some share their thinking openly and others internalize it all. In all cases, there seems to be a tendency toward polarized thinking, which is very black and white or all and nothing.

Examples of Catastrophizing

Some people have a degree of containment around their tendency to catastrophize meaning it may only manifest in certain areas of their life, and others find it across a number of scenarios. What follows are some examples.

  • Health and Well-Being: Sue feels pain in her leg and thinks she must surely have bone cancer.
  • Career and Future: Bill thinks his boss was not impressed with his presentation and concludes that he will likely get fired soon.
  • Social Arena: Tom is upset that his friend has not gotten back to him from the message he left this morning and decides that his friend probably hates him and is ghosting him.
  • Relational: Beth’s husband wasn’t interested in having sex tonight and she is up all night convinced that he is cheating or about to divorce her.
  • Financial: David is on the verge of panic since the market is moving into a recession and he knows that he is going to lose all of his retirement savings.
  • Legal: Nancy is in tears as she is pulled over by the police behind her. She has no idea why she is being stopped but is certain she will be going to jail.
  • Academic: Steve got a C on his midterm and figures he better just drop the class cause he will surely fail the final.

How Do I Stop Catastrophizing?

Most people prone to catastrophizing find life to be tumultuous and stressful. They routinely have to wrestle through terrible anxiety and feelings of depression. These feelings are fueled and driven by extreme conclusions and interpretations of their thinking. In order to reduce the negative emotions, they need to get to the source, which is their distorted thinking patterns. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is designed to help people identify this pattern of thought and learn how to control and combat the conclusions they are coming to rather than just being along for what ends up being a rather unpleasant ride. Analyzing a situation, examining evidence and facts, and using logic and reason to evaluate a number of possible outcomes or interpretations are but a few of the ways to bring your thinking into a more moderate middle ground. Some people are able to learn these skills on their own and others benefit from a skilled and neutral facilitator such as a therapist.

Maple Grove Psychiatrists

If you are interested in talking with one of our providers about ways to figure out how to get your thinking working for you rather than against you, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an individual consultation with one of our providers so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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