What is one of the worst aspects of having anxiety? Catastrophic thinking is anxiety at a whole other level of negativity. Let’s deal with this.
Honestly, I wasn’t an expert in the term catastrophic thinking, but I was familiar with its definition. Catastrophic thinking is the way the mind operates under the influence of anxiety. In this state, the mind works in the “worst case scenario” according to life’s concerns.
For instance, if a friend suddenly acts different on a given occasion, those with anxiety may come up with a number of reasons why something terrible is wrong, when in fact your friend could just be having a bad day.
Are you familiar with catastrophic thinking?
So, how familiar are you with catastrophic thinking? Maybe your loved ones are going through this, or maybe they’ve even made this mindset a part of their character.
It’s important to understand and be able to recognize this way of thinking, especially if you wish to help. It’s also just as important to recognize catastrophic thinking within yourself as well. Here are ways to recognize this behavior.
1. Time Patterns
One way to recognize catastrophic thinking is to pay attention to thought patterns at certain times. Is there a certain time of day when your thoughts turn to anxiety-ridden fears? These moments are considered triggers, and whatever occurs during this time starts the duration of these thoughts. Whether they end at a certain time or not, they always seem to be triggered at the same time or repetitive event.
Pay close attention to how your thoughts are affecting your emotions. Are your anxious thoughts making you act in irrational ways? If so, you are going through catastrophic thinking.
Fears have a way of warping normal thought processes and, in turn, causing rash actions or other unhealthy behaviors. Pay attention to any of these connections.
3. Loss of control
If your loved one seems out of control, then maybe catastrophic thinking is the culprit. Too much concern about not being able to control every aspect of life will, in turn, cause you to lose control. You will no longer be able to control those renegade and irrational thoughts, hence also creating bad behavior as well. This results in a total loss of rational understanding.
Unfortunately, anxiety can cause severe confusion. This is one of the worst feelings for those who suffer. If you have a loved one who is reacting in the wrong way, be patient.
When you deal first hand with catastrophic thoughts, you have problems differentiating between normal gut feeling and paranoia. It can get so difficult to tell the difference that even the obviously rational topics become confusing. Those who suffer will not be able to trust anything or anyone without quite a bit of convincing.
5. Panic attacks
Something is terribly wrong when panic attacks happen. After a while or rationalizing, trying to retain control and even attempting to break connections between thought and emotion, the human body will experience the physical effects of anxiety. The heart races, the hands tremble, and you know that catastrophic thinking has pushed you too far.
Panic attacks are serious events which can lead to adverse physical effects. Long-term physical illnesses have come from mental illness left unchecked for too long.
When all else fails, those who suffer from anxiety will withdraw from social contact. Sometimes this happens early on as well. Withdrawal is a way to avoid the feelings which come from catastrophic thinking. Yes, it works, but no, it’s not a healthy way of dealing with these feelings at all.
You will know something is wrong when the ones you love start to avoid people, situations, and eventually, you.
Now, how can we deal with this?
There is no cure-all for anxiety, but it can get better with the right treatment. There are ways you can help your loved one control this catastrophic thinking. Let me share a few ways that have worked for me.
1. Gathering evidence of the contrary
In my experience, this option only works for some people; but one way to help you deal with catastrophic thinking is seeing evidence which contradicts your concerns. If you’re afraid that someone doesn’t like you, then talk to them about it, face to face. In the rare instance that it’s true, you can at least move on. If you are wrong, then you can alleviate your concerns.
Like I said, in some instances, this does not work for you personally. You may get stuck in a pattern, seeking evidence. In this case, you might want to use a different way of dealing with this problem. When it doesn’t work for long, it can be feeding the problem instead of helping.
2. Coping strategies
Sometimes things cannot be ruled one way or the other. In other words, sometimes evidence isn’t able to uncover the absolute truth. When this happens, it’s best to learn how to cope with what life gives you, along with your fears.
Coping comes in different forms. You can stay busy, you can keep talking to people who help you remain calm, or you can focus on the successful things in your life and build there. It might not make those worries go away, but it will help you continue to strive toward goals.
3. Take a deep breath
One effective way to combat catastrophic thoughts is by pausing. Taking a deep breath as soon as you recognize those unhealthy thoughts, will allow you to take a fresh look at your given situation.
Sometimes, you will be able to rationalize better and even let go of some fears. Deep breaths or pauses in thinking might not take all the bad thoughts away, but it can at least help decrease their intensity.
When you get caught up in the “worst case scenario”, practice reversal. When your boss says he wants to talk with you later, instead of assuming that you might get fired, consider you might just be getting an advancement or raise. Of course, you don’t know what will happen, but who says it has to be the bad option.
Practice this change until you start to see some positive results along with the negative.
You can overcome, and your loved ones can too!
There are so many ways to deal with catastrophic thinking, and if you’re struggling with techniques at home, then there are professionals as well. Therapists can help you take a deeper look at your mindset, searching for roots and facing your fears. If you feel yourself sinking deeper or your loved one is crying out for help, please seek professional assistance. Remember, life is not perfect…
And we’re all in this together.