Do you think catastrophizing makes things more stressful or less stressful?
"Catastrophizing" is what happens when you think that the worst possible outcome will happen when anticipating
danger or difficulty, especially in circumstances where this is actually very unlikely.
For example, a well-liked and respected employee might fear being fired if she or he doesn't complete a big project
in a short time.
Cognitive psychologists (e.g., Beck & Emery, 1985) teach us that catastrophizing makes things more stressful.
That's because, unwittingly, our thoughts help mobilize our bodies and emotions as if a genuine (rather than
imagined) catastrophe were actually happening. Emergency systems are up and running. We get ready to fight or
flee with no present actual threat. How exhausting!
If you notice that you catastrophize, think logically. For example, On a scale of 1-10, is this really a catastrophe or
is this a difficult problem instead?
Is this happening now? If not, must I rehearse being so scared? Do I have a crystal ball? If not, I might be
prepared for a very fearful consequence, but I might also allow myself to expect less catastrophic results.
Marianne Ross, Ph.D., is a Licensed Psychologist
in private practice in Irvine and Laguna Beach, CA. (714) 497-3454). She also
works at the University of California, Irvine. Counseling Center/College of