Catastrophizing-How to stop making yourself depressed and anxious (Thinking Error) Skill #6

Catastrophizing-How to stop making yourself depressed and anxious (Thinking Error) Skill #6

In this video we’re going to talk about
catastrophizing-expecting the worst. Catastrophizing is an excellent way to
make yourself anxious and depressed and completely ruin your life! Oh yeah and
I’m going to teach you three approaches to replace it with something healthier.
So let’s talk about that. This video is part of my intensive course on rewiring
the anxious brain it’s on so if you’d like more information about
that check that out. A man was driving along a dark country road very late one
night there was a loud bang followed by the thump-thump-thump of a flat tire he
gets out of the car gets into the trunk pulls out the spare tire and the lug
wrench but with a sinking feeling realized that his jack is missing. He
checks his phone and he doesn’t have reception now he’s stuck. As he’s
wondering what to do he looks down the road and sees a porch light a long ways
away and he decides to walk over and ask the farmer if he could borrow a jack. The
walk was long and dark and he starts to imagine what will happen when he reaches
the farmhouse the farmer will probably already be in bed he probably will be
cranky about being woken up but because the man has no other options he keeps
walking and as he walks through the dark other thoughts come to him “What if the
farmer doesn’t have a jack? Farmers have guns what if he pulls that out? That
farmers probably gonna sic a dog on him what if the farmer realizes that the
man’s alone and and robs him?” At this point the man is scared but he’s also
getting angry he knows that farmer is gonna be a jerk but he still needs his jack
so he walks up to the front door and knocks. An upstairs light comes on and
while waiting for the door to open the stranded man imagines a red-faced
bug-eyed farmer wrench open that door. The door swings open and a man says “Can I help you?” and the stranded man shouts “I don’t want your dang jack
anyway!!” and he grabs the door, slams it shut and storms away. So what is
catastrophizing? Catastrophizing is a common cognitive distortion or thinking
error. it’s when we think of a current or future situation as a catastrophe so for
example you worried that you’re gonna fail a test but then you imagine what
would happen when you do fail you’re gonna fail out of school end up working
at McDonald’s never have success in life and die homeless on the street
catastrophizing is imagining the worst it’s taking a difficult situation and
interpreting it as being horrible terrible and unrecoverable we all know
that person who if they got a B on a test they wailed “I’m failing math class”
and many of us have had that parent who when we didn’t want to do our chores
they said something extreme like “If you don’t do your chores your college
roommates will hate you and no one will want to marry you” okay that’s not the
voice my mom used but you get the idea so like in the story about the Jack
catastrophizing often starts with genuine setbacks like getting a flat
tire in the middle of nowhere but then the thinking error turns that reality
into the belief that something horrible is bound to happen. so this man started
thinking I’m gonna get shot attacked and robbed. At its root catastrophizing is
about our habitual response to challenges or shortcomings. So take a
second pause this video and ask yourself how do you think about failure? when these habits become part of a
repeated pattern they lead to depression or anxiety and people tend to imagine
never being able to recover so here’s some common examples someone with
anxiety imagines losing control of himself for example a man with panic
disorder predicts that if he goes to the mall on a weekend afternoon he’ll have a
panic attack and he then predicts that having a panic attack would be a
catastrophe rather than it just being really
uncomfortable. Or a woman with depression envisions herself being depressed
forever and never feeling happy again or associating some type of mild to
moderate social rejection with being totally shunned by all desirable people.
So how does catastrophizing mess us up? We have all experienced some tragedies
in our life including painful rejection or failure and I think that we trick
ourselves into believing that if we expect the worst we can prevent it but
in reality usually the exact opposite happens so think about the man from the
jack story because he feared getting rejected he slammed the door shut on
himself he cut himself off from the opportunity to get the solution he
needed because he was thinking about everything that could go wrong. Seeing
the worst often invites the worst. Not only do we cut ourselves off from
opportunities but we invite the exact problems we’re hoping to avoid. If we go
into a conversation expecting the other to get defensive
we often lead off by being harsher or more rigid inviting the other to get
defensive. If you expect that your crush will reject you if you ask him out and
then you don’t ask him out you end up alone on the weekend. Catastrophizing
invites depression when we imagine a future that is bleak threatening or
hopeless that our brain responds by putting out less serotonin and dopamine
the happiness, pleasure and motivation chemicals. Why be happy or hopeful when
the future is impossibly dreary? This leads to a cycle of withdrawal from life
a lack of motivation and a pattern of depression. Catastrophizing also invites
anxiety it forces our brain to see threats and
failure everywhere and our brain responds to perceived threats with a
very real fear response the fight flight freeze response. This contributes to
social anxiety, general anxiety, panic attacks, and more. Expecting the worst
makes us hopeless and depressed about the future and it makes us unmotivated.
Why try if I’m just gonna fail? and it enables us to wallow in self-pity.
Catastrophizing closes us off to opportunities and options that might
work and it leads to a sense of paralysis
so if catastrophizing is so harmful why do we keep doing it? at this point I’ve
got a pause because some of you out there have started this super unhelpful
thought process of “yeah why am I such an idiot? I am so broken!
See I am defective because I do this stuff” Okay you need to stop that, take a
deep breath. You are not defective you might be doing something that’s not
working for you but that doesn’t mean you’re bad or broken it means you can
change and get feeling better if you need to pause this video and take a
second to be kind to yourself and practice some courage changing how we
think takes work but you can do hard things so let’s go back to the question
why do we catastrophize? well it serves two dysfunctional functions number one
preparing for the worst is a coping strategy preventing us from
feeling risk or uncertainty if I expect myself to fail I won’t be disappointed
if I do if I reject myself first then I don’t have to worry that my crush
will do it to me. Catastrophizing is an attempt to avoid feeling to protect
ourselves from feeling sadness or worry. But the crazy thing is that when we try
not to feel we often end up depressed and anxious. Expecting the worst also
justifies us for not even trying and attempts to excuse our failure before we
put in an effort. No wonder it feels more comfortable than putting your heart out
there. It’s comfortable in the short term but it crushes the joy out of life in
the long run. You’re not risking failure but you can’t have success. You’re not
getting rejected but you’re still alone on the weekend. Dysfunctional function
number two: Sometimes we think that or we’ve been trained to believe that the
best motivation is fear. That in order to motivate ourselves to study or to go to
work we have to predict doom and gloom fear as motivation works briefly but in
the long run it makes us anxious depressed overwhelmed and less
functional so let me use a school anxiety example so a kid’s not going to
school because of anxiety and the parents also feel anxious so they go
into the room and they say “you have to get up or else you’re gonna ruin your life”
“you have to go to school or you’ll end up working at McDonald’s” etc etc and in
the short term this gets the kid out of bed and into school but then she spends
the rest of the day worrying about being a failure and the next day it’s even
harder to get motivated to go to school Do you do this to yourself? like try to
give yourself a pep talk but it’s really more of a fear talk? we or our parents
may have used fear in the past as a strong motivator but it’s just not a
sustainable source of motivation so let’s find something that’s more
functional than our self justifying self-defeating catastrophizing. So first
off start with a good night’s rest when we’re sleep-deprived
we’re hyper sensitive to threats and less resilient in the face of challenges
when you’re rested you’ll have a greater ability to face these challenges bravely.
Step two: accept uncertainty as a natural and acceptable part of living a
wholehearted life. This is a fundamental life skill that can be developed and
practiced it involves changing how you think about anxiety so instead of
labeling anxiety as bad or harmful or I can’t handle it you say this is
uncomfortable but it won’t injure me I can do hard things
courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that something else is more
important embrace acceptable risk and the anxiety
that comes with it as normal natural and helpful and build up your emotional
muscles to experience uncomfortable emotions by practicing mindfulness
meditation or doing something that scares you every day
and number three motivate yourself by what you want in life by what you value
and hope for instead of trying to use fear so these are called positive goals
so instead of saying I have to go to school so I don’t die homeless on the
street you say I choose to go to school because I want to be a therapist when I
grow up okay I never said that as a kid but you get the idea
choose what you do want in life break it down into small goals and bravely work
toward those little by little now here is the classic CBT approach to ending
catastrophizing so number one start by noticing when you are catastrophizing
what are the words you use when catastrophizing commonly these are
things like never terrible fail rejected awkward or using exaggerations making
things out to be worse than they are notice what are the situation’s you tend
to catastrophize about write down what it looks like when you do it ask a
friend or family member to point it out to you
number two challenge those thoughts just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s
true learn to notice and gently question your
thoughts you don’t have to believe everything you think but also don’t beat
yourself up for thoughts saying things like what’s the matter with me why do I
always think this way it’s just not very helpful instead notice your thoughts and
let them pass this is another skill from acceptance and commitment therapy and it
can be practiced with activities like leaves on a stream which I’ll link to
below number three replace those thoughts with
something more honest and helpful so once you start to notice this type of
thinking you can bravely pick up your emotional sword and begin to combat it
with more honest more rational thoughts so consider other possible outcomes even
if something bad did happen you could learn from it it wouldn’t be the end of
the world so here’s a couple of examples here’s the catastrophizing oh no I am
such an idiot I already made a mistake on this report I’m never gonna finish it
or if I do it’ll be so flawed that it won’t matter I’m gonna get fired no
matter what and here’s an example of what you could replace that with okay
wait that’s not true everybody makes mistakes I’m only human
I’ll fix this muster and if I need to ask for help I can but
I’m just gonna keep working hard and try to be more careful in the future
nobody’s gonna fire me for a mistake or two in a report or another example I
can’t believe I said that to my boyfriend he’s gonna leave me for sure
this time I shouldn’t have said that to my boyfriend I really need to learn how
to talk kindly even when I’m upset I’m gonna go apologize and try to make it
right hopefully he’ll understand accept my apology and we’ll both learn
something from this this approach requires us to stay engaged even when
there’s a risk of things not going perfectly this is called vulnerability
the potential for success and also for getting hurt but the only alternative is
to guarantee failure by cutting yourself off before you even try I’m a big fan of
acceptance and commitment therapy a process which basically trains you to
get better at feeling to open yourself up to the emotions that come with living
the life you value love joy sadness worry hope excitements and then anxiety
etc etc as you come to wholeheartedly embrace life your goals and your values
you’ll get better and better at living with some risk and you’ll be rewarded
with good things happening to you all the time make good things come to you as
you courageously face life and the risks and joys and loves that come with it
please share this video because you never know who could benefit from it
thank you for watching and take care

49 thoughts on “Catastrophizing-How to stop making yourself depressed and anxious (Thinking Error) Skill #6

  1. "It's all going wrong…!"
    This is definitely one of the two things I do to really wind myself up. It's tough to take a step back sometimes when you just get on a roll with this kind of rumination. Thanks for the tips

  2. I’ll never feel “normal” again…. seems to be my daily thought lately🤦🏻‍♀️ my panic attacks and anxiety have been kicking my butt lately😩 wish you where my therapist you’re so calm❤️

  3. I do this, mostly about things that haven't happened yet, or may never happen. I'm still getting over the "why do bad things always happen to me " mentality.

  4. i need help to access that course or another resource to try and overcome my anxiety and depression i am a student but i have no cards or cash . i am from a poor country in the middle east egypt we are beyond the psycho science here . i need any help

  5. This video deserves more likes! The concept has been deconstructed very well. Thank you for this!

  6. Thank you for this. I’ve been diagnosed with generalized anxiety, major depression, SAD, social anxiety etc, and I do this ALL THE TIME… usually results in a crying panic attack, I just had one about my mental health & marriage, thinking I’m ruining it. I just came across your channel, and now I have a bit of hope that I’ll be ok. Will work with your suggestions. Again, thank you so much 🙏🏾.

  7. Thank you so much for this. How can I apply this to severe physical symtpoms of an undiagnosed illness that are terrifying me?

  8. Hi. I discovered your channel today. Thank you for the amazing videos. Why are you mentioning depression and anxiety together? How are they connected?

  9. My catastrophizing materializes in bursts that come out of my mouth and only after I speak do I think oops, I probably shouldn’t have said that ..

  10. This is what I have been doing my entire life! My gosh. You're really awesome. Very well explained. Excellent content, great clarity! I need to learn from you. I hope I follow your guidance. Thanks a lot for this video 🙂

  11. I'm always inventing catastrophic confrontations with people who have some power and control over what will happen in my future. People who've just caused stress through some kind of conflict.
    Feeling helpless to control the outcome makes me "loop" the ultimate fictitious resolution where I get what I want in some unrealistic scenario after things have all gone to hell. It's always something completely unhelpful takes away my sleep and calm. I can't turn it off.

  12. I did not realize how often I do this, in a few areas. I tend to choose failure up front, rather than the stress of trying and failing. (a poor strategy!) You are posting better alternatives and they are appreciated!

  13. I came here to talk myself down from a "my life will end" panic attack about something extremely small, and it helped, thanks

  14. One thing I'm catastrophizing about right now relates to an actress/celebrity I like named Joey King; what I'm catastrophizing about relates to her Twitter feed.

    Specifically, I did not know until now that favoriting too many of her posts or responding to/commenting on too many of them would seem to make me come across as a spammer (albeit I have had no such intention).

    My worry is now that she may never respond to any tweet I make in the future (no matter how polite or respectful); never mind that I tried to correct my error.

  15. Great story at the beginning – such a perfect example! It's so easy to get worked up thinking about the worst-case scenarios. I released a video today about catstrophizing, to and I'd love to get your feedback if you get a chance!

  16. All I could do watching this video was internally scream, "but what if your entire life has been a succession of catastrophes?!"
    I feel like very intense bad things have happened to me one after another for a decade, and so feel justified in my catastrophizing. Dead parents, illness, financial loss, the works.
    If you have a pattern of that in your life and it has been relentless, how do you stop yourself from believing it won't continue?
    And separately, do you take patients over the internet, like via Skype?

  17. I found this video after having some feedback from work that I catatrophise (s instead fo z because I am from the UK) Your video is very well done. I think my life might be better if you were the voice of reason in my head. Thank you for taking the time to do this video. 🙂

  18. thank you so much for this video! i wish i had found it a few months ago, because i’ve been catastrophising about climate change and the state of our planet for quite some time now, this is literally such a relief!

  19. Very educational – and very entertaining. Big thumbs up. One could imagine that there could be a risk to someone by discussing their negative thoughts and thus engaging further in their thoughts; rather than apropos the approach of ACT simply accepting disaster thoughts and then leaving them and bringing focus somewhere else?

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