Catastrophizing: Why is it ALWAYS so bad?

Last week on @LoveinActionTV on the Periscope app my sister and I talked about PTSD.  Closely linked to PTSD is catastrophizing.  These two are similar to the chicken and egg theory.  Many catastrophizers experience PTSD and many people with PTSD are catastrophizers.  So what is catastrophizing anyway?

Catastrophizing is thinking something is much worse than it actually is.  Guilty as charged.  We all do it but some people get stuck in a catastrophic wheel unable to pull the breaks, stop, and get off, which tailspins catching a multitude of other problems along the way such as:

  • Poor interpersonal relationships
  • Missed opportunities and underachievement
  • Hopelessness
  • Irrational thought patterns
  • Constant pity parties and disappointment
  • Chronic or uncontrollable pain
  • Anxiety, depression, negative mood
  • Illness
  • Suicidal ideation

I see this situation all the time in my practice as a physical therapist.  When treating acute or chronic pain, the person’s outlook on their ability to improve, heal, and move on speaks more to their prognosis than the actual diagnosis.  Those who constantly think about the situation, depend on others to give them answers, and allow one injury to segue to multiple tend to have poor outcomes no matter how simple the medical and PT diagnosis may be.

These problems can be classified into three major categories, which identifies those exhibiting catastrophizing behaviors about a situation or the future:

  • Magnification: Having fear that a situation will worsen
  • Rumination: Unable to stop thinking about the situation
  • Helplessness: The feeling that you have no power to change or improve the situation

Simple techniques get out of catastrophizing:

  • You become aware that you’re doing it!
  • Fake it. Visualize the best possible outcome and begin to act, talk, and be the reflection of greatness.
  • Take charge. Be an advocate for yourself, empower yourself as your ultimate healer.
  • Draw a line between catastrophe and something very unfortunate that you can deal with.
  • Meditate, breathe, and pray. This will increase your ability to cope with negative situations.

References

Boyls A.  What is Catastrophizing?-Cognitive Distortions  www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/201301/what-is-catastrophizing-cognitive-distortions

Grohol JM.  What is Catastrophizing?  https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-catastrophizing/

Quartana PJ, Claudia MC, Edwards, RR.  Pain catastrophizing:  a critical review.  Expert Rev Neurother.  2009 May; 9(5): 745-758. Doi:10.1586/ERN.09.34

**Catch Teaching & Talking with the Twins every Friday night on the Periscope app @LoveinActionTV!**

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