Many different tools and techniques exist that help to reduce anxiety, and here is yet another one that somebody can try to manage. Catastrophic thinking is something that almost all anxiety sufferers tend to engage in, however, it seems in particular that this kind of thinking has a particularly large impact on those afflicted by social anxiety.
What is catastrophic thinking? Catastrophic thinking is when a person imagines scenarios in his or her head (this article tells you how to use that to reduce your anxiety) that are way more intense or graphic than what can really be expected. For example, if someone’s brother or sister is late to meet for lunch, the anxious person may begin to frantically worry that his or her sibling has been in a terrible car crash and is now severely injured or dead. Or, an anxious person who works with children or is taking care of someone else’s for the night, may worry that just because a child has a small fall, that he or she has broken a bone and is bleeding internally and might die. These are thoughts that could be categorized as catastrophic.
Could some of these thoughts be true? Many anxiety-sufferers will say, “Yes!” However, what is the likelihood that they are true? Sure many people die in car accidents in a year, however, 98% of the time they are completely safe, and even if they are in an accident, most often they are not severely injured or killed. The same goes for children. Children are determined and resilient, especially when playing in an enjoyed activity. Just because the child falls does not mean that he or she will immediately die. The much more realistic interpretation is that the child will have a bruise on his skin or bone, which will heal in a week or two and is really not a big deal.
The preceding process is precisely the process one should engage in so as to reduce anxiety. While some of these extreme scenarios could be true, they are in all probability not true, and believing that they are makes one very anxious and stressed. In order to combat these extreme beliefs and reduce anxiety, it is much more helpful to engage in factually based thinking. Just think about what the odds are that a certain catastrophic event will happen. If the person in question has no answer to the question, then ask a trusted friend or family member who would know a much more realistic interpretation of a particular situation.
The anxiety that is caused by catastrophic thinking far outweighs the actual consequences that will be experienced if the situation is actually engaged in. Mothers are notoriously overprotective of their children. If a mother does not allow a male child to play football because she is afraid he will get hurt, she is not allowing the child to make his own choices and lead his own life. While it is guaranteed that this child will get hurt during football (everyone does) it is not guaranteed that this child will experience a life-altering injury. It can lead one’s self or others under his or her authority to lead very inhibited lives, which is contrary to living life itself. People live life and part of life is taking risks (smart ones, not stupid ones), and not allowing people to do what they want to do because one is worried can damage the party or parties being restricted. Male children will feel like “mothers boys” and as though they have lost all masculinity if not allowed to take certain risks. This can totally ruin a male’s life. This article is not knocking mothers, but it is demonstrating the destructive consequences catastrophic thinking can have (indeed, a mother’s concern for a child is very important). Or, take the overprotective boss as a more practical and generalizable example. Does not everyone begin to resent the boss because he or she is imposing too many restrictions on the employees, citing concerns for their safety as reason for these restrictions?
There are many other ways in which catastrophic thinking can affect a person’s life in a negative fashion, and these demonstrations are used in order to help a person understand what catastrophic thinking is and how it can negatively affect a person’s life. Catastrophic thinking is not based in reality, and therefore it is unlikely to happen, if ever. The healthiest thinking is that which is based on factual and logical reason, as it leads to the healthiest and most balanced lifestyle!