9 Ways To Stop Catastrophic Thinking

Dr. Ankit Sharma, PhD

Updated on:

Ways to Stop Catastrophic Thinking

When you think catastrophically, you may often anticipate the worst. Here’s how to stop thinking negatively. We may follow our ideas to either safety or survival. Having unfavourable thoughts all the time might leave you feeling helpless or alone. But you can handle them with the Ways to Stop Catastrophic Thinking.

Catastrophizing, another name for catastrophic thinking, is an illogical way of thinking that might lead you to believe that bad things will happen.

Various factors, including anxiety, PTSD, and chronic pain, may bring on catastrophizing. Frequent bouts of catastrophizing might increase stress levels by maintaining a persistent fight-or-flight or freeze reaction in your body. Many health issues might arise as a result of ongoing stress.

Tips For Stopping Catastrophic Thinking

1. Recognize When You Are Having The Worst Thoughts

Recognizing an excessively pessimistic mindset is the first step toward Ways to Stop Catastrophic Thinking. If you constantly think this way, it may become challenging to tell the difference between unhealthy and constructive ideas.

Furthermore, there are instances when thinking happens so quickly and instinctively that you are unaware of what you are thinking. The worry and terror you have while considering a notion may quickly indicate whether you are awfulizing or catastrophizing.

These thought patterns often start with terrifying “what if” scenarios (such as “What if my child falls and hits their head?” “What if I have cancer?” or “What if my boyfriend is cheating on me?”), or they start with an unpleasant mental picture of something terrible occurring.

After this, you could have even more troubling thoughts, such as “My boyfriend must be cheating on me,” which can lead to awfulizing when you tell yourself things like “This is awful” or “That would be the worst thing that could happen.”

Write down the idea as soon as you realize it is causing you anxiety and that you are telling yourself something unfavourable about the scenario or potentially finding yourself in. Catastrophizing and awfulizing ideas are often rigid, absolute, and detail-poor.

2. Contest The Thought

It’s time to confront a notion after you’ve determined that it seems to be catastrophizing or awfulizing. You may do this in several ways.

‘Looking for the proof’ is one tactic that entails questioning the integrity of the concept. Another term for this is an empirical debate. It entails posing the question, “How likely is this precise outcome that I have in mind?” to oneself. What proof is there that something will or is occurring?

Take a minute to think about these questions if an idea is bothering you. The likelihood is that, even in the unusual event that the dreaded scenario is realized, there will be little to no evidence supporting the conclusion, which is likely the case if you are experiencing catastrophizing thoughts.

An additional tactic is to assist you in realizing that you can embrace the potential of even harmful outcomes. This may be helpful when challenging ideas that include an awfulizing component, such as “That would be terrible.”

To maintain mental health, we must embrace and live with uncertainty, as feared consequences can never be completely ruled out as possibilities. It is the best Way to Stop Catastrophic Thinking.

3. Seek Out Contradictory Data

Finding out contradictory data is a solution to How to Stop Catastrophizing. Consider if the evidence supports your idea, suspicion, or view. Does this imply that, even if it is true, it will result in something disastrous?

You may recall an instance when you thought along these lines, but something good came of it. Nobody became upset with you, your buddy didn’t pass away, you didn’t lose your job, and your wife didn’t file for divorce. Though you persuaded yourself it would, it didn’t materialize.

Another strategy is considering at least two or three advantageous possibilities for the same circumstance. Consider them now as proof that your expectations are not being met.

4. Substitute The Idea with a More Sensible and Practical One

It’s often beneficial to develop a counterargument that makes sense after refuting a disastrous or horrifying concept using the strategies mentioned above. The logical idea is more practical, adaptable, and less distressing than the emotional one, but it’s only sometimes favourable.

The revised, alternate idea admits that:

a) The worst-case scenario is probably not the most probable one.

b) Even if it did happen, it would probably not be as horrible as you had imagined. Therefore, in the driving example, you can say, “A collision is unlikely to happen,” after disputing the idea that you would probably get into an accident and would be awful. It would be regrettable but not the worst thing that could happen to me if it did occur.

In the same way, you might tell yourself in the relationship scenario: I’m pretty sure my relationship isn’t in jeopardy right now, and even if it were, it would be unpleasant and distressing, but I’m pretty sure I could handle it.

The alternate concept aims to change the problematic feeling of anxiety into a more controllable kind of “concern.”

5. Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness is one of the effective Ways to Stop Catastrophic Thinking. Similar to meditation, mindfulness is a practice that increases awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Teaching you to watch your thoughts without passing judgment or making conclusions about their validity, goodness, or truth is the main objective of the practice.

You will become more self-aware with time. Being mindful of the here and now helps you to stop yourself before your thoughts spiral out of hand. Psychotherapists suggest mindfulness to lower stress and control intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety because it works so well.

6. Journaling

Maintaining a journal may be a solution to How to Stop Catastrophizing and other detrimental behaviors that negatively affect mental well-being.

Just jot down your emotions and ideas in a diary or book. In addition to externalizing, you may analyze your ideas to determine why you’re inflating the severity of the problem.

Maintaining a journal also assists you in gaining control over feelings like doubt and illogical anxieties like failing, becoming sick, losing your house, or losing a loved one.

Once the unpleasant emotions have subsided, put the diary away and go over what you wrote. Reading and seeing what has been published may assist you in organizing your ideas and increasing awareness of your thinking.

Don’t be shocked if you find yourself chuckling at your excessive thinking. Never forget that your ideas are just that—thoughts, no matter how genuine they may seem.

7. Challenging Yourself

Acknowledging the onset of a spiral might assist you in pushing yourself to break the pattern. Connect with your feelings in the present by practicing periods of quiet. You could become more conscious of how to control your thoughts as a result of the practice over time.

Think about pausing for a minute, looking about, and concentrating on how your present environment influences your thought process. To assist you in verbalizing what you’re feeling, if it’s comfortable for you, try expressing out loud what you’re seeing.

8. Distract Yourself

Do you remember how, in Ironman 3 (2013), Tony Stark had a full-blown panic attack when the kid mentioned the battle of New York? The kid told him, ‘Why don’t you build something?’ That helped Tony, and that can help us. You don’t have to build something; do something that will keep you distracted for a while.

For instance, you can read a book, listen to music while walking in a park, or watch your favourite show. If you manage to distract yourself, you will find the panicky thoughts are becoming lighter, and eventually, they will go away.

9. CBT

You may learn to identify triggers and alter your negative beliefs about them using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). A 2017 research by Trusted Source with 16 individuals who have fibromyalgia showed that cognitive behavioural therapy led to a sustained improvement in symptoms.

2020 research reliable source of PTSD patients reported that their symptoms subsided after engaging in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to quit catastrophizing.

Next Steps

It might seem complicated to escape the vicious loop of Catastrophic thinking that can pull you into such spirals when you catastrophize.

This might be how you manage trauma, ongoing medical conditions, or chronic pain. However, the catastrophic thought cycle’s stress may seriously affect one’s physical and mental health.

Refocusing your attention when catastrophic ideas arise and avoiding the negativity they generate are skills that can be learned and show Ways to Stop Catastrophic Thinking.

Putting yourself to the test and speaking out loud when you think irrationally may help you recognize when you’re losing your rationality and stop yourself from being too carried away.


Q: What is the main reason why people catastrophize?

A: Fear and poor self-esteem are the leading causes of catastrophic thinking. We see ourselves as powerless and think we cannot solve difficulties. People who have trouble thinking catastrophically most certainly have a difficult upbringing.

Q: What are catastrophizing symptoms?

A: Your mind is going wild. You experience a mental blockage. One may begin to feel overwhelmed by anger or terror. You engage in critical self-talk.

Q: What degree of catastrophizing is there?

A: For clinical interpretation, the following fear-avoidance severity levels have been suggested:

  • Subclinical (0-20).
  • Mild (21-40).
  • Moderate (41-60).
  • Severe (61-80).
  • Extreme (81-100).

Leave a Comment