9 Ways To Stop Catastrophic Thinking When You Always Expect The Worst

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woman with arms folded thinking

We all know people we refer to as a Negative Nancy/Ned or a Debbie Downer. They automatically imagine the worst-case scenario in every situation.

They are plagued by negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness in the most mundane of circumstances.

These irrational thoughts are called catastrophic thinking, or cognitive distortion. It can occur in adulthood or adolescence.

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During their thought processes, people with catastrophizing thoughts twist things into hypothetical situations where everything that can go wrong will.

Some examples are statements like “I won’t be selected” or “I know I will fail.” They manifest negativity when it isn’t even present.

This starts out as blowing things out of proportion, and those incidents lead to feeling down and having catastrophizing thoughts on a regular basis.

This can even result in over-exaggerations of chronic pain, where it is seen through a lens of catastrophe. When people feel that everything is much worse than it truly is, a molehill turns into a mountain.

How To Stop Catastrophizing

The good news is that if you tend to have these negative thoughts, they can be changed. TikToker, Dr. Julie Smith, gives a few solutions in her video:



1. Be aware of catastrophic thoughts.

The first step in solving any problems that impact your mental health is to be aware that they exist. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can take corrective action.

2. Call out catastrophic thoughts.

It is important that you label these thoughts appropriately. This means that as soon as negative thinking starts, you recognize it and call it what it is.

3. Don’t try to block it out.

When we try not to think about something, we end up thinking about it endlessly. Instead of avoiding the thoughts that appear, accept them as possibilities and be open to other options.

4. Focus on the here and now.

Next, shift your focus to the present moment. Don’t worry about the past or the future.

Practice mindfulness about what is actually happening in your life at this very moment by concentrating on objects around you.

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5. Consider the alternatives.

Think about other possible outcomes that are more positive. You have already imagined the absolute worst thing that can happen, so consider the best.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT), Andrea Bonior Ph.D., deals with patients who have anxiety disorders and stress disorders. She offers a few additional ways to tackle catastrophic thinking.

6. Stop exaggerating.

Being specific about the negative effects of something can help to quell those associated thoughts. Many times, depression and anxiety come from fear of something that never materializes.

7. Get some sleep.

Sleep deprivation can cause you to overthink. It can make you paranoid of threats and dictate how you deal with people and situations.

Adequate sleep helps you to consider things logically.

8. Know that it is okay to not be okay.

Catastrophic thinking is compounded when you first have thoughts of total destruction, then get upset with yourself for having those thoughts.

Don’t add guilt to your problems. Recognize that you are working to fix your mindset and re headed in the right direction. Be gentle and loving toward yourself.

9. Exercise.

By now we all know the value of exercise and the endorphins that it releases to raise your mood. If you are paralyzed by catastrophic thoughts and ideas, physical activity is just what the doctor ordered.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and the author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues