February 23, 2018 Felicia Durling

Catastrophic Thinking and How to Stop It Now

The world is surely going to end. That’s what you’re thinking. Something of grave importance has occurred and it is going to dictate the course of the rest of your life starting right now. Nobody else believes you when you say that “this is it”. Indeed, the end is nigh, and there is no convincing you otherwise. What has happened? Usually nothing.

You may be waiting on a review at work, or the results from a doctor’s office. Perhaps grades are due from school, or your new crush hasn’t texted you back yet. Your head is running a thousand miles a minute outlining impending doom. Some call it anxiety, but others have deemed it as catastrophic thinking, or, catastrophizing. For example, if your review at work doesn’t go well, you won’t get a raise, you will get fired, your girlfriend will be disappointed in you, she’ll leave you, you’ll have to move out of the apartment, you won’t have enough money to live on your own, and you’ll have to live on the streets. Everyone will find out you’re a failure and you’ll be banished to the loneliest corners of the world. Does that sound familiar? Worrying about major decisions is normal. Becoming paralyzed by catastrophic thoughts is unproductive and damaging.

Reversing the Process

Understand that catastrophic thinking is typically due to feeling out of control. Not having a hand to determine a positive outcome, it’s easier for the brain to assume the worst. Staying non-judgmental, aware, and mindful of this can take some of the power of these thoughts as they happen.

After addressing your thoughts as being catastrophic, examine them. They likely provide valuable information that can be used in action. There are two recommended courses of action for utilizing the long chain of thoughts in catastrophic thinking. First, list out each segment of the doomsday story. On a scale of 1-10, rate the realistic likelihood of each part. You may find yourself laughing at some of your predictions. Second, create another list of things you think you can do to prevent some of these prophecies from becoming self-fulfilling. Proactive efforts can go a long way. Self-esteem and confidence will boost while anxiety and fear will be diminished.

Lastly, remember to give yourself some credit. You are worth good things happening. Focus on the positive outcomes that are possible and strive towards making them happen. You’ll learn better behaviors to bounce back from the next perceived failure.

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