Catastrophizing means that trivialities and small mishaps are hyped up into major disasters or catastrophes. People who show this behavior assume the worst on almost all occasions and also picture future events.
Disaster thinkers suffer from a particularly severe form of negative thinking. Due to the constant preoccupation with the imagined catastrophe, the imagined images manifest themselves in the subconscious, the fears increase and eventually become self-perpetuating. If one looks at the events soberly, there is no reason to develop such fears.
What does „catastrophizing“ mean? Meaning, explanation, definition
In the world of catastrophists, only black and white exist, with a fundamental tendency to the dark side. However, it is not a fad, the people concerned really suffer from the idea of an approaching „worst case“.
Catastrophizing resembles pessimism and black-visioning, but it is a much more extreme form of looking at the future. The negative thoughts can take on such a life of their own that catastrophizing people increasingly lose touch with reality. This even goes so far that they see only dangers in everything. As a result of their negative aura, their environment turns away from them and the catastrophizer threatens to become lonely.
How does catastrophizing occur?
As a rule, the negative view of the world is related to experiences in the past. Whether it was a difficult childhood, accidents, experiences of flight or the death of relatives, what was experienced was usually so dramatic that those affected felt at the mercy of others. The traumatic events were indeed real catastrophes.
But they are in the past and there is no real reason to transfer these thoughts to the now. But in the case of disaster thinkers, the negative feelings are stored deep in the subconscious, virtually preserved, and are now transferred to every new situation – even if in reality there is no disaster. The affected persons are not able to perceive their own options for action, but feel once again at the mercy and powerless. Catastrophizers remain in the victim mindset, while people with healthy psychological resilience emerge stronger from crises.
Consequences of catastrophizing
Catastrophizers are not threatened by real dangers. However, they have a blurred perception of reality that is subjectively true and correct for them. They live in constant worry and have a diminished quality of life as a result. They draw false conclusions from the stimuli that come to them and remain entrenched in their negative views. An event is associated with a series of negative visions of the future, although the reasons are completely harmless and easily explained.
Example: A friend or relative has not contacted us for a long time. Normally we would assume that he is busy at the moment, perhaps he has fallen ill for a short time and will certainly get in touch soon. With the catastrophe thinker, on the other hand, a downward spiral of negative conjecture sets in. He often relates the behavior to himself, believing, for example, that he said something wrong and that the friend is angry with him. Or he suspects a car accident with dire consequences, perhaps even the death of the friend. All of these speculations are pure fantasy. In addition, the language of a catastrophe thinker is peppered with superlatives, which increases the inner alarm. Yet in his mind, the assumptions are as present as if they had actually happened or were about to happen. The gloomy view of the future not infrequently leads to depression, so that those affected are more often suicidal.
What helps against catastrophizing?
Behind catastrophizing lies an enormous fear of losing control. The fear can be so strong that physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, fatigue, headaches and gastrointestinal problems also develop. Because the problem is deeper, appeals like „practice positive thinking“ don’t help.
It can be relieving to write down one’s thoughts. Because if they are put down on paper, they are given structure and the catastrophic thinker can distance himself from them more easily. By contrasting alternative thoughts, the view of the situation can be put into perspective.
Another technique to get away from the harmful pattern is the confrontation method. It involves imagining what would happen in the worst case scenario. For example, someone who is afraid to speak in front of an audience for fear of blacking out should realize that it is just a human weakness that is easily forgiven by the audience. On the contrary, it will in all likelihood react positively if the speaker shows his or her human side.
If this does not help, then coaching or therapy are effective ways to stop the negative spiral of thoughts. However, these methods are only fruitful if the people concerned also seriously want to work on themselves.