We all know what a catastrophe is but what about catastrophizing? Catastrophizing is a common occurrence in people that are feeling anxious. Catastrophizing is caused by anxiety but also serves to fuel anxious symptoms. Because of the cyclical worsening that happens with symptoms of anxiety it is important to interrupt this cycle. People stop living in the moment and spend much of their time worrying about the future.
An anxious person can turn almost anything into a possible catastrophe.
Headache? Definitely a brain tumor.
Some people with anxiety are over-sensitive to normal bodily sensations. They may catastrophize any physical symptom they feel. Physical symptoms, intermixed with anxiety, are a common driver of panic attacks.
Have a school exam coming up? Likely you will fail and become homeless.
People can catastrophize about finances, friendships, or may jump from one catastrophic thought to the next.
- “What if I don’t ever get a job?”,
- “If I make the wrong decision it may cause ______ bad thing to happen!”,
- “What if the plane crashes?”,
- “Am I dying?”
Sure, some of these worries might be reasonable at times. But an anxious person will take a very small thought and turn it into a huge worry based on very little evidence.
Catastrophizing thoughts are generally not based on current reality but future projections related to worry thoughts. Catastrophizing anxiety thoughts aren’t productive projections and don’t cause you to improve your future. It’s energy wasted and not energy spent on improving life.
And projections associated with anxiety are never positive. They don’t uplift you or make you feel hopeful. Instead, they cast a shadow of gloom and doom on life and make you feel out of control.
Recognizing catastrophizing anxiety is the first step to stop it
The first step to stop worrying about the future is to recognize when you are doing it! Some people have been feeling anxious and catastrophizing for so long that it comes naturally to them.
Think about your anxious symptoms
When you are feeling anxious are you worrying about the future? Catastrophizing the consequences without evidence? Take a minute to think about your anxious symptoms and ways that you project into the future. When you are worrying, stop to ask yourself if you are projecting a consequence and using catastrophizing anxiety.
The first goal is to recognize it! Stop and take some time to look at your worry thoughts when you are feeling anxious.
For helpful techniques that will help with catastrophizing read this blog: 5 Ways to Stop a Panic Attack
Look for the next post for ways to stop these anxious symptoms!
The next post will talk about how to interrupt the cycle of catastrophizing and projection.