Anxiety Can Feel Like A Catastrophe
Excessive worry doesn't feel good. Both our bodies and our minds experience it in often painful ways. Anxiety frequently causes the mind to fret over a problem. When we do that, we’re thinking about the problem itself rather than a solution for it, and the problem can become quite a monster. Our thoughts have run away with it and now blow it out of proportion, turning metaphorical little mole hills into gigantic mountains. Problems seem like catastrophes.
Without even realizing what we’re doing, we are catastrophizing our problematic situations. “Catastrophizing” is a term used in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and it describes a specific thinking pattern that is very common in anxiety.
When we catastrophize, we agonize over a problem, assume the worst, and jump to horrible conclusions. A fight with a significant other, for example, is perceived to be a catastrophe leading to certain separation. A mistake at work, of course, will lead to termination.
Catastrophizing Can Be Part of Different Anxiety Disorders
The mind in panic disorder is very prone to catastrophizing. In this particular anxiety disorder, the mind almost automatically assumes that a panic attack will occur in certain situations. Not only that, the mind is convinced that a panic attack will have horribly catastrophic consequences.
In social anxiety disorder, catastrophic thoughts focus on embarrassment and rejection. The mind continues to catastrophize by believing that such embarrassment and rejections will have terrible results.
The excessive worry about mistakes that is common in generalized anxiety disorder can lead to the “what-if” game. When we catastrophize, the answer to the “what-if” question is usually extreme and disastrous. “What if I do poorly on this test,” jumps to “I won’t be eligible for scholarships so I won’t be able to go to college and I'll be stuck with a job I don't want.”
You Are Not Powerless
With anxiety, catastrophizing can become a vicious cycle. Excessive worry intensifies the focus on the problem, catastrophic consequences are imagined, and the perceived consequences increase anxiety. This doesn't mean, though, that you are stuck in a trap of irrational thinking.
The very first step to take is to begin to notice that you’re catastrophizing. Pay attention to your thoughts and catch yourself assuming that disastrous outcomes are in store.
Once you've identified a catastrophic thought, pause and consider other possibilities. Will a missed deadline at work surely cause you to be fired? Or are there other possibilities?
Accept that you aren't at the mercy of fate. You truly do have the power to take control of your thoughts. As you stop catastrophizing, you just might find that your anxiety is reduced right along with it.
NCC, T. (2014, January 8). Anxiety Can Feel Like A Catastrophe, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/01/anxiety-can-feel-like-a-catastrophe