Jan 31, 2024 | Mental Health

Tips to Help Stop Catastrophizing


Sometimes, in the noise of the mind, personal thoughts can become our greatest enemy. For those who live with anxiety, ADHD, or other neurodiversity’s, it is common for these thoughts to spiral. This can lead to catastrophizing, which can impact a person’s mental health and well-being. Today, we want to chat more about catastrophizing and offer some ways to help quiet the mind and stop those small concerns from becoming imaginary disasters. 

What is catastrophizing? 

Medical News Today defines catastrophizing as the following “Catastrophic thinking or worry is repetitive, negative thoughts that focus on the worst possible outcome of a situation. This may occur even when the “catastrophic” event or situation is not actually likely to happen.” Furthermore, they outline the following possible reasons for this to occur in individuals: 

This type of thinking is also common in people with ADHD due to emotional dysregulation. 

Some examples of catastrophic thinking include: 

  • If I make a mistake at work, I will get fired. 
  • They didn’t respond to my text message; they must hate me. 
  • I have an important presentation next week; I am going to forget everything and make a fool out of myself and ruin my career. 
  • I have a headache; I must have a serious health condition. 

Tips to help 

There are some techniques you can consider implementing to help with this issue. Here are a few to keep in mind the next time you find your mind wondering to a dark place: 

Challenge your thoughts 

Actively challenge catastrophic thoughts by asking yourself if they are based on facts or assumptions. Consider alternative, more realistic perspectives. Is there evidence to support the catastrophic scenario you’re envisioning? What is the possibility of the outcome you are imagining happening? What is more likely to be the outcome? Often, it is key to recognize when you are falling into a pattern of this type of thinking and how you can refocus your mind to something more realistic.  

Try breaking down the situation into smaller more manageable components. Allow yourself time to focus on each one so that you can think about finding a reasonable solution or take steps to address each concern separately.  

Self guided exercises 

Since catastrophizing is often based on future outcomes, centering yourself and finding techniques that help bring you back to the present can be very helpful. You might want to try breathing exercises where you allow yourself the time to take some calming breaths before you face your negative thoughts. If you practice meditation or mindfulness, these can also be beneficial in helping bring you back to the moment, allowing you to concentrate on what is happening in the present. There are a variety of different apps that can guide you through these practices.  

Seek support 

If catastrophic thinking is connected to a medical diagnosis related to your mental health, you might require the help of a medical professional. If you find that you are overwhelmed by your thoughts and aren’t able to find appropriate techniques to stop these thoughts, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) may aid in reframing your thoughts. “Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you learn to recognize triggers and change negative thoughts about them.” –Psych Central

When you are in the thick of catastrophizing, it can seem impossible to break free. However, whether it be finding techniques that work for you, or seeking professional help, there is no shame in asking for the support you need. If you require immediate assistance, The Alberta Health Services Mental Health Help Line is available at any time at 1-877-303-2642 (Toll free)

Learn more on this topic

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