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Catastrophizing: Stop Assuming the Worst 

Himika Akram reporter  

Have you ever faced such situations when your parents or teacher told you ‘We need to talk’? After that, you started getting cold feet, could not breathe normally, thinking either your parents got to know about something which you really tried to hide from them, or you must have done something wrong, otherwise why your teacher is asking you to meet him after the class? Then you started feeling like ‘If my teacher knows, then my parents will know, my friends will know. Eventually everybody will know. How can I show my face after this?’ 

Or situations like when you send a text to somebody, and they did not reply perhaps because something else came in between, but you started feeling extremely uncomfortable thinking that person is offended at you for some reason?  

If such scenarios sound familiar to you, then chances are there that you are going through catastrophizing. In plain words, catastrophizing is when you can only think of the worst possible thing. Obviously, it is not healthy at all because without even knowing the actual reason behind something, you start thinking you have done something wrong and keep beating yourself up. It lowers mood and ruins energy for no reason because you are overthinking about something which did not even happen. You start panicking, behave rudely with people around you. And instead of rubbishing those thoughts off, you keep clinging to them and add up more assumptions to make it seem even worse.  

People face catastrophizing at any age. The main reasons include, habitually being a negative thinker, a difficult past where you have seen many worst-case scenarios coming true, perfectionist parents who constantly found flaws in whatever their children do, low self-esteem etc.  

To a small extent it is good because it keeps you mentally prepared for the worst possible situations as well as keeping your expectations low. But after a certain point, when you see it is obstructing your peace regularly, it requires addressing. Catastrophizing can work as a backdrop of PTSD. So, here is no reason to take this lightly. 

Objective thinking is the most helpful way to get rid of always thinking of a catastrophe. When one employer rejects you, even though you felt your interview was rocking, instead of thinking “I am never going get a job again,’ try to think, ‘so many people are applying for the same job and the other jobs, and they are also getting rejected daily.’ But their life has not ended, and you are not the only one in this battle. 

Another helpful strategy is, instead of reaching out to your friends and family to talk about the issue, join the groups or pages or discussion forums on social media which deal with mental health issues. When you see lots of people going through similar kinds of experiences; you might even feel other people are going through much worse experiences than yours. 

Also, stop giving your fears too much importance before the symptoms are there. 

Meditation is always helpful to calm your mind down. Try to practice mindfulness too. Try to identify the feelings behind the fear. Is it the feeling of rejection that is causing the fear? Abandonment? Facing somebody’s angst? Heartbreak? Before facing your fear, deal with that feeling first. Think about how you can pacify yourself if you are rejected or face someone’s anger. 

Finally, the therapy option is always open for anybody. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you to identify and take charge of your negative thoughts and feelings. Some rounds of therapy will do no harm if you feel your Catastrophizing is on such a level that it needs addressing. 

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