When your Mind Rivals a Horror Movie – Catastrophizing

March 1st, 2021, Silja Litvin

Sometimes we need to tell our mind to take a back seat… and chill

We’ve all been there: stayed up all night worrying about your partner’s cryptic text message, considered all the different ways you could die after signing up for a skydiving lesson, or stopped yourself from going to dinner with your family after losing your job – oh, the horror. We can’t handle the worst – so what doesn’t kill us… will simply give us terrible anxiety and fear instead. 

What is Catastrophizing?

Catastrophizing is when we think that something is far worse than it is or will be. 

We catastrophize when we’re afraid and our mind tricks us into thinking a situation is worse than it actually is or will be.

But what happens if we do it so often that we make ourselves sick with worry? What happens when signing up for skydiving lessons gives you more anxiety than adrenaline? And what happens to our mental health and wellbeing when we catastrophize every situation? 

How to cope with catastrophizing

There are a few ways with dealing with catastrophizing, and it’s the way you treat above situations habitually:

Beneficial: Questioning our negative thoughts and trying to stay rational – we don’t have to skydive, but looking at the stats, it’s actually quite safe

Less beneficial: Catastrophizing, but still going through with our plans

Non-beneficial: Giving into fear by expecting the worst

There are times when fear can help us avoid, or prepare for, the worst possible outcome – if you saw the breakup coming with a cryptic text, you can gather your thoughts and prepare your response or reaction in advance – and other times when we must challenge our negative thoughts in order to confront the situation with the best possible approach, even if it scares us.

This week’s challenge: 

The next time you feel like your thoughts are getting the best of you, try to understand your thoughts before reacting to them. If you find yourself giving into fear, start with something small. It is ok to consider the outcome of what might happen as a result of our actions or experiences. Just make sure you’re not stopping yourself from living in the process. You shouldn’t have to jump off that plane if you don’t want to, but you don’t have to let the thoughts of what may happen to you if you did consume you either.

Have a great week, Lodestar!

Silja Litvin

Psychologist and Founder of PsycApps