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Catastrophic Thinking

Catastrophic Thinking involves taking a relatively minor event and imagining all sorts of terrible disasters ensuing as a result and is one of the thinking traps that can get in the way of happiness and success.

It is blowing things wildly out of proportion compared to what actually happened and then adding in a healthy dose of exaggeration to boot.

People who catastrophise combine anxiety and pessimism into a cocktail of disproportionate emotions.

Take for example Carol.

Twenty minutes ago, she was getting ready to go out to her friend’s house but has realised she can’t find her purse.

Rather than calmly sit down and try to remember when she used it last and where she might have put it, she begins to catastrophise:

Catastrophic Thinking Trap - woman with head in her hands

Carol’s Catastrophic Thinking

“I can’t find my purse… Oh no, I must have left it on the counter at the department store when I bought that new jumper…

someone is bound to have seen it and nicked it by now!

I’ll bet that person who was behind me in the queue saw my PIN number when I used my debit card..

they’re bound to have emptied my bank account by now and probably stolen my identity too…

That means that I’m not going to be able to pay my bills or my mortgage..

What if the bank decide they’re going to re-possess my house?

I’ll be out on the street living in a cardboard box…

How on earth can I have been so reckless!”

Catastrophic Thinking Volcano Metaphor

Catastrophic Thinking is a Lack of Perspective

Carol, like many people with a catastrophic thinking style, finds it hard to maintain perspective and to evaluate situations realistically.

Catastrophisers have vivid imaginations which they use to create doom-laden futures with frightening scenarios.

These catastrophic ‘visions’ inevitable lead to feelings of anxiety and stress.

Furthermore, those who catastrophise tend to mitigate any skills and resources that they may have that might allow then to deal with adversity.

Catastrophic thinking is the ultimate lack of perspective which is propped-up through the use of catastrophic language patterns.

In fact, catastrophising relies on catastrophic language as fuel whether it be spoken words or unspoken thoughts.

Catastrophic thinking utilises flamboyant, disproportionate language to stir up the emotional experience.

Things aren’t going to be just bad, they’re going to be really, really bad.

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