Catastrophizing And Anxiety

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Catastrophizing is a faulty thinking pattern where various worst case scenarios are imagined and then treated as if they were a foregone conclusion. What this does is force people into a mode of being where those far off, unlikely outcomes have, as far as the psyche is concerned, already occurred.

Most of those caught in the grip of catastrophizing don’t see their thinking as faulty until it’s pointed out to them. They see their catastrophizing as rational and necessary, as a reflection of objective reality not a reflection of their own exaggerated thinking spurred by anxiety.

In an existential framework catastrophizing is a way to turn free floating, hard to conceptualize anxiety into a tangible thought that can be understood and therefore combatted. But while discovering the sources of anxiety and then taking the necessary steps to mitigate those threats can be healthy and adaptive, the main problem with catastrophizing is that the threat and its probability are blown way out of proportion, which ends up acting as a self-perpetuating vicious cycle where the doomsday predictions cued off by anxiety create even more anxiety, which in turn prompts more catastrophizing to once again transform that anxiety into something tangible.

The way to cut through that vicious self-perpetuating anxiety cycle is to bring mindfulness to the fore in order to note the catasrophizing in the moment and then actively contradict it by remembering that no one can perfectly predict the future, that the catastrophic outcome is possible but probably unlikely, and most importantly that right now, in this moment, everything is okay. The dreaded outcome has not yet come to pass.