A Guide to Decatastrophizing

What Is Catastrophizing?

Catastrophizing is a form of cognitive distortion. Cognitive distortions are irrational thoughts that can greatly influence how you feel. Cognitive distortions are normal, everyone has them. However, if you find that you have them in excess they can be quite harmful.

 When we catastrophize, we take a problem/concern and then exaggerate it so that it looks far scarier than it actually might be. Consider whether you have experienced the following series of thoughts:

‘I lost my job. I am going to go broke and then become homeless. If I become homeless then I will never get back on my feet and then I will be alone for the rest of my life.’

Also consider …

‘I lost my job. This is proof that I can’t do anything right. I am going to be a failure who never amounts to anything and I will end up dying alone.’

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Believe it or not, thoughts like these are common and are often experienced by those who struggle with anxiety. They can be very frightening in the moment but rest assured, there are ways to gain the upper hand over catastrophizing.

Consider answering the following questions whenever you notice that you are beginning to catastrophize:

  1. What are you worried about?
  2. How likely is it that your worry will come true? Give examples of past experiences, or other evidence, to support your answer.
  3. If your worry does come true, what’s the worst that could happen?
  4. If you worry does come true, what’s most likely to happen?
  5. If your worry comes true, what are the chances you will be okay in…one week?…one month?…one year?

Remember that so far you’ve survived 100% of your worst days.

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Information derived from therapistaid.com. Worksheet available for print at: https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/decatastrophizing.pdf