Negative thinking is a natural thing for every person – some of it. Yet when with some people negative thinking grows totally out of proportion and begins to haunt them, it is called catastrophizing. It can become an everyday torture. How to cope with it and what is the cause of catastrophizing?
What reasons lie behind catastrophizing?
Those given to thinking along these lines let negativity reign in their minds for the following reasons:
- They are laboring under fear
- Their brain chemistry has undergone marked alterations
- Their self-confidence is below par
- Relatives and people around them taught them a lifestyle abounding with catastrophes
- They don’t have sufficient self-esteem
- They acquired wrongful beliefs
- They are inclined to pessimism
- It was a reaction to some past trauma, an appalling experience or some suchlike event
- They cannot put negative thoughts out of their minds
They developed some thinking deviations like personalization, polarization, or filtering, which prevent realistic thinking
What other things can lead up to catastrophizing?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has long been known as an experience resulting in multiple dire consequences of which catastrophizing is but one. (On the other hand, constant negative thoughts can cause PTSD, too.) Realistically thinking, there are no grounds for believing that a traumatic or distasteful event is bound to reoccur.
Some sufferers grow to believe that catastrophic thinking is a good way of dealing with their anxiety. If they keep that in their minds, they won’t live through something like that again. You should be aware that this kind of dealing with problems may end up in social avoidance and eventually a more depressive kind of loneliness.
Parental behaviors may account for their children (and later adults) distorted perception. It can happen if parents were given to overreacting and swearing at kids without good reasons. Also, if they expected their child to be perfect.
Catastrophizing is often accompanied by chronic pains, and this condition is well-known medically.
Sufferers from chronic pains who always go about feeling bad can be activated by fear. They stop believing that they will ever recover and be able to get rid of their pain. This disbelief can make them develop certain habits like avoidance of any physical labor (which can actually not alleviate but aggravate their condition).
Yet chronic pain is a physical state, while catastrophizing belongs with a different kind of disorder. It is basically a psychological condition, but it leads to alterations in brain physiology. Since such alterations can be unpredictable, catastrophizing must be regarded as a serious disorder.
Anxiety and depression as concomitant disorders
Catastrophizing is often linked with depressive and anxious states, for instance generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), PTSD, and OCD.
According to a 2012 study, with children catastrophizing is frequently linked with bad cases of depressive and anxious states. It is especially true of younger kids up to the third grade. When they had their anxiety addressed, it was revealed that catastrophizing existed alongside their depression. The conclusion had it that as children go on believing the worst scenario they develop the notion that everything is beyond their control. They feel hopeless and, consequently, depressed.
Catastrophizing relates to fatigue
As various relevant studies were reviewed back in 2012, catastrophizing was discovered to be linked to the feeling of fatigue. It appears that catastrophizing may add to the general exhaustion. It means that people who are into catastrophizing get tired more quickly. Considering that the studies were not expansive, further research on this will be welcome.
How to stop catastrophizing
If you feel your habit of catastrophizing may get the better of you, you should take measures to keep it in check. You can try out some of the following:
- if you, when assailed by negative thoughts, write them down in a notebook, you can discover your thinking patterns and know where they commonly take you. Reread them with a trustworthy friend and analyze them
- practice mindfulness
- consider regular breathing exercises
- confront your negativity and stifle fears
- arrange for special short periods of worrying when you recognize and analyze your fears
- seek ways to sort out your burning issues
- address the felling of uncertainty
- work out strategies you can fall back on in case things take an unexpected turn
- discuss your condition with a trustworthy friend or relative
You may find it difficult to maintain a constant control on your negativity -in this case it would be advisable to resort to powerful techniques like Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). A specialist can examine you and conclude whether any medicine should be instrumental in controlling your condition and weaken the symptoms.
In case there is any concomitant disorder, you should consult a healthcare professional and work out a treatment that will suit your particular condition.