• Emily Stetzer / 0 comments

Are you a catastrophic thinker?

Ever catch yourself imagining the worst-case scenario before it even happens?


I always think of two major times in my life where I struggled with my OCD and anxiety the most: middle school and college.

In high school, I remember having the least amount of problems pertaining to my mental health. But then I came across these examples when researching "signs of catastrophic thinking," and each one screams "emily circa 2010."

Although I wasn't experiencing the same OCD-related distress in high school that I was in middle school and college, I did tend to catastrophize every little thing, especially when it came to academic performance. A critique on my essay, an almost forgotten assignment, the amount of time I spent studying for my AP classes all felt like the MOST important thing.

Maybe these examples will help you realize this type of thinking so you can start to find better ways of handling stress.


Here are 5 signs you might be a catastrophic thinker:


1. You blow things out of proportion.

You tend to magnify the importance or severity of a situation, making it seem much worse than it actually is.

You accidentally spill a drink at a friend's house and immediately start worrying that your friend will never invite you over again, ruining your friendship.


 2. You overgeneralize everything.

You generalize one negative experience to predict that similar outcomes will happen in the future, assuming that if one bad thing happens, everything else will too.

You have a bad experience during a job interview, where you stumble over your words and don't perform as well as you'd hoped. Instead of attributing it to nerves or a one-off situation, you conclude that you'll never succeed in any job interview and will always be a failure.


3. "What if, what if, what if..."

You often engage in a pattern of "what if" thinking, imagining the worst-case scenarios and dwelling on potential disasters rather than focusing on realistic outcomes.

Planning a vacation and constantly worrying about what could go wrong, like missing your flight, getting sick, or losing your luggage, instead of focusing on the excitement of the trip.


4. The intensity of your emotions is disproportionate to the worry.

You experience intense emotions, such as fear, anxiety, or despair, in response to perceived threats or negative events, even if they are unlikely to occur.

Receiving a critique on your artwork and feeling devastated, believing that you have no talent and will never succeed as an artist, despite receiving praise from others in the past.


5. You physically feel like something "catastrophic" is happening.

You may experience physical symptoms like increased heart rate, sweating, or muscle tension when catastrophizing, as your body reacts to the perceived threat as if it were real.

Feeling a twinge in your chest and immediately jumping to the conclusion that you're having a heart attack, even though it's likely just a muscle strain from exercising earlier in the day.

 Yes I used David twice, but I just love him. 

Recognizing and challenging catastrophizing thoughts is key to overcoming this cognitive distortion. Cognitive restructuring techniques, such as identifying irrational beliefs, evaluating evidence for and against catastrophic thinking, and reframing negative thoughts, can help individuals develop a more balanced and realistic perspective.

Best reminders for catastrophic thinkers (OR take the quiz):

Embrace uncertainty

I am separate from my mind

I let go of what I can't control

my thoughts are passing clouds



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