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Anxiety and Catastrophising

Anxiety and Catastrophising thoughts go hand in hand. When we catastrophise a situation we jump to the worst possible conclusion. We often do this even when we don’t have any, or very little evidence that such a thing will happen. We will often feel that we are in the middle of a crisis when a situation is difficult or upsetting, but not necessarily catastrophic.

An example of Catastrophising could be, you hear a noise in your car engine and you start to worry about what it means, you start to think that there is something seriously wrong and you will need to take it to the garage and it will cost a lot of money to be fixed, you won’t be able to afford it and you won’t be able to get to work. You have little to no evidence that there is anything seriously wrong or about how much it will cost or how quickly it can be fixed, but you have gone from a noise in the engine to a problem getting to work very quickly.

When people catastrophise a situation it can be a sign that they are experiencing anxiety, depression, anger related problems or have generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or other conditions.

When we catastrophise all the time, it can be crippling, we can overanalyse every conversation or interaction, we can start to second guess ourselves and life can lose its enjoyment, so managing our catastrophising is very important. Below are 3 ways that you can begin to manage your catastrophising thoughts.

Dealing with Uncertainty

  1. Pay attention – noticing that you are catastrophising is the first step to changing this internal mental pattern. When you realise that you are starting to catastrophise try to slow down and take some deep breaths. It is hard not to spiral with your thoughts. You might like to try some of the coping mechanisms explained in another of our blogs. Managing Anxiety – 3 Quick Tips 

Slowing yourself down, gives you chance to evaluate the situation and consider what is really happening rather than getting pulled along by your thoughts.

  1. Try to see what you are worried about from different perspectives – if you are catastrophising about a situation, see if you can come up with six other scenarios for it. For instance, you are expecting your husband to be home by 6pm but he’s late. Immediately you think that he has been in an accident and is injured or worse. What else could have happened?
    1. He could have been late leaving the office because he was talking to a colleague
    2. He could have been late leaving the office because he had work to finish
    3. He could have got stuck in traffic or there was an accident or diversion
    4. He could have stopped to get petrol on the way home and there was a long queue
    5. His car could have broken down and where he is he has no phone signal
    6. He could have had an appointment to go to and he forgot to tell you. His mobile is out of battery.

There are many other reasons why he could be late home. Another way to practice this coping mechanism is to think about what a friend would say to you in this situation or what you might say to a friend if they were worried. The key is to try and exit the spiralling worry and escalating concern.

  1. Work on accepting uncertainty and things going wrong – Uncertainty in life is pretty much a given, things will go wrong, you will encounter problems and difficulties large and small. If you think back, you have probably dealt with many things happening out of the blue or unexpectedly. Think about these times, did the worst happen? When you were late for work were you fired? When there was a noise in the engine did you need to get a new car? When your husband was late home were they injured or just stuck in traffic? You may need to talk to a professional about how you feel and explore ways with them that you can learn to tolerate anxiety and uncertainty without catastrophising, if this is the case you might want to talk to Paul. Please look below for how you can make contact with Paul.

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Further Online Resources

How to Stop Catastrophising – An Expert’s Guide

NHS – Self Help – Generalised Anxiety Order in Adults

What is Catastrophising?

SANE – How to Stop Catastrophising

It may be that you need to talk to a professional about your issues with anxiety and catastrophising thinking, perhaps with someone like Paul. For more informaion about Paul please take a look at the About Paul Page, Frequently Asked Questions Page and The Counselling Services Page. If you would like to make an appointment with Paul for Counselling, Psychotherapy or Supervision, please call Paul on 07843 813 537 or fill in the form on the Contact Page, if he doesn’t answer he is probably in a session, please leave him a message and he will call you back as soon as he can.

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