Catastrophising: How toxic thinking leads you down dark paths - Deepstash
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Catastrophising is the mental habit in which you overestimate the chances of something bad happening and exaggerate the potential negative consequences of that scenario.

You apply for a dream job and immediately start visualising a rejection. You wait for a response from a friend, but when you don't receive an immediate response, you start imagining all the ways you might have offended the person. You might assume a bad headache means you have brain cancer.


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From Sigmund Freud to Aaron Beck

Research shows catastrophising can pose a serious threat to mental health.

Psychoanalysis, developed by Sigmund Freud and others in the first half of the 20th Century, tackled mental illness by trying to uncover suppressed fears and desires resulting from early childhood events.

But by the middle of the century, psychotherapists such as Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck started looking for alternative ways to guide people through their distress. They focused on people’s conscious thought processes that were distorted and could lead to distress.


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Why some people experience catastrophic thinking

Why some people experience catastrophic thinking

  • Personality traits like neuroticism may explain why some people experience catastrophic thinking more than others.
  • We may also have learnt our thinking style from family members.
  • Our current context may also play a role. For example, feelings of stress and insecurity mean small triggers could tip you into negative thinking.


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Breaking the cycle

Breaking the cycle

It is possible to break the negative thought cycles. 

  • Recognise when your mind is going down a psychological black hole. You might notice that you are feeling anxious about an interview. If your next thought is that you won't make it, you could question the basis for your assumptions.
  • If you try to take the viewpoint of an objective observer, you could recognise that failure is a possibility, not a certainty, and that you can take proactive steps to improve your chances.

The aim is to develop a more balanced view of the situation based on the evidence at hand.


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