How to Stop Catastrophizing (thinking of the worst possible things)

Hi Guys!

As promised, in today’s post I will be talking about Catastrophizing. As I explained in my previous post on Identifying Your Thinking Pattern, Catastrophizing is one of the most common thinking errors.

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What is Catastrophizing?

Catastrophizing is seeing only the worst possible outcomes of a situation. When we use this thinking error, we take a relatively minor event and imagine all sorts of terrors and nightmare scenarios resulting from it, which can cause a heightened emotion.

Catastrophizing can result in experiencing high anxiety, panic attacks and cause unnecessary worries. A good way to spot catastrophizing, is if you are using a lot of “what if” worries. For example: What if the airline loses my luggage and I won’t have any of my clothes, or, what if I trip walking up to do my speech.

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As you can see, some of these worries are either very unlikely to happen or out of our control. How catastrophizing works is, we think of the worst possible things that could happen, then our body reacts to these thoughts as if they are going to happen (that’s the panicky feeling you experience).

The thing with catastrophizing is that we may be worrying over something that may never happen or that we have no control over. So, that is why it is so important to challenge this part of your thinking pattern, to help reduce any unnecessary worrying. We call this de-catastrophizing your thinking.

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De-Catastrophizing your thinking

Below I have given you a set of questions you can follow as a guide to help you view your catastrophic thoughts/worries more critically and realistically.

  • What is my thought?


  • What, if any, hard evidence supports this thought? (What makes the thought true?)


  • What, if any, hard evidence disapproves of this thought? (What makes it untrue or out of my control?)


  • How am I likely to feel and act if I continue to think in this way?


  • What is more likely to happen? How could I cope with it?


  • What are some less terrible conclusions I can make about the event?


  • What practical steps can I take to deal with the situation, instead of just worrying over the worst possible thing that could happen?


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Niamh-Psychotherapist xx 

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