Catastrophic Thinking – Another Cognitive Distortion

Everyone engages in catastrophic thinking from time to time, this is when one’s reaction to an event is overly intense, emotional and anxious. We often see this type of thinking in individuals who struggle with anxiety, their reactions are highly anxious, “worse case scenario” and full of distorted thoughts i.e. “Tim took the car to the store half an hour ago, he should be back by now… something bad may have happened…he’s in trouble…maybe he was in a serious car accident!”

Individuals experiencing panic attacks or panic disorder understand this way of thinking all too well, panic attacks can bring on devastating physiological and emotional symptoms that can make the individual feel as though they are having a heart attack or that something is seriously wrong with them physically. The individual then engages in catastrophic thinking, “I’m going to die!” that spikes their anxiety and makes for a more emotional and exhausting experience. To overcome catastrophic thinking, it is important to look for evidence to refute these exaggerated thoughts and then engage in more logical thinking i.e. “this is a panic attack and I’ve survived one before, my life is not at risk”. “Tim probably stopped to get gas on the way to the store, he is safe and will be home soon.”

Have a great day!