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Stop Catastrophizing

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

Indeed, the human mind can solve complex problems leading to significant improvement in the quality of life. The human mind can also create irrational thoughts that distort reality. We are informed by a simple message change the way you think, change how you feel; enthusiasm and positivity make a difference. We benefit from a positive mindset when things get challenging.

Logical reasoning is necessary because things do not always go as planned, and we must adapt to these environmental changes. When things do not go as planned, automatic negative thoughts can be countered with positive, neutral, evaluative, rational, and action-oriented thoughts. Should you begin to think of your pursuits with contempt, you will despair and see no reason to preserve. Therefore, how you allocate your mental resources will assist in determining if you flourish in any situation.

What is catastrophizing?

Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion where people predict or expect the worst possible outcome in a situation. They exaggerate the pessimistic prediction and become fearful. The fear can be in response to an actual or perceived imminent threat or anticipation of a future danger. For example, an athlete in the same 100m race as the world record holder becomes anxious and thinks he will pull his hamstring trying to keep up during the race. In other words, the person catastrophizing makes a mountain out of a molehill.

The person draws an arbitrary conclusion without relevant supporting evidence. The situation itself does not have to be catastrophic, but how and what you think at the moment or predict will occur in the future will affect your present functioning. Your negative thoughts affect your problem-solving skills, mental state, and overall emotional and behavioral health.

Your negative thinking includes logical errors based on an incomplete and inaccurate interpretation of what is happening—leading us to ignore the facts and rely on the erroneous interpretation as logical. Catastrophizing typically occurs in the middle of a crisis, and your automatic thoughts are so harmful that your thinking begins to spiral. As you start to spiral, you forget some things are possible but unlikely to happen.

How to stop catastrophizing

Since catastrophizing is rooted in how we think, I will present ideas from cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to reduce the impact of negative thinking.

  • Awareness supports learning and understanding the events, feelings, and behaviors associated with negative thoughts. Understanding constructive behavior is learning the language you use when you begin to think negatively.

  • Accept that things will sometimes go wrong, and they will.

  • Develop an understanding and acceptance that sometimes you will catastrophize, and it is ok. What is most important is your response.

  • Cognitive restructuring, what am I thinking, the facts, and the distinction between fact and opinion.

  • Develop alternate ways of reasoning about a catastrophe by using action-oriented thoughts that lead to a solution.

  • Thought log identifies the event that led you to catastrophize, the catastrophic thought, the emotional and behavioral consequence of your thinking, your alternate responses, and your automatic thoughts about the event. Logging your thoughts will assist you with awareness of your catastrophic thinking, the associated emotions, and behaviors that can be used to create interventions to manage the catastrophizing.

  • Challenge your distorted thinking using Socratic questioning. What is the evidence to support your thoughts? Is the evidence I am considering based on fact or feelings? Am I exaggerating? Did I inappropriately appraise the situation?

  • Play the script until the end – this is crucial because of the tendency to make arbitrary assessments without reviewing evidence.

Everyone has negative thoughts. We are not immune to catastrophizing, but we can recognize how these thoughts influence our thinking, feelings, and behaviors.

Stay Naturally Curious


Corey, G. (1996). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (5th ed). Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

Wilding, C. (2012). Cognitive behavioural therapy. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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