So you’ve identified that catastrophising is one of your thinking errors.

Well done! Identifying an unproductive pattern in your thinking is a major step to a happier you. That’s an achievement.

Can I change this thinking error?

Yes you can. There is a process you can go through to change the pattern from emotional thinking to logical thinking. Let’s call it ‘De-catastrophising’.

First though, it’s useful to understand a couple of things about this thinking error:

  1. Catastrophising is always about the ‘what if?’ rather than anything concrete.
  2. It always focuses on the future – something we cannot predict or control.
  3. It tries to make the uncertain, certain.
  4. It causes anxiety – big time.
  5. It is at the root of behaviours like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

‘What If?’ thinking

What if they don’t like me?

What if I get hurt?

What if I get it wrong?

What if people think I’m stupid?

What if I make a fool of myself?

What if I haven’t locked the door?

What if I hurt someone?

What if what if what if……?

‘What if?’ spikes anxiety and that makes you scared. That fear becomes the driver  in the decisions and choices you then make. We call this emotional reasoning. Choices made from emotional reasoning are often poor choices and cause distress. You can learn more about emotional reasoning by clicking the button on the right.

Good choices are made with logical reasoning . If we catastrophise, our job is to shift our thinking from emotion to logic. We can do this by using the chart below.

De -catastrophising: an example

Identify the ‘What if?’

Switch it to a definite.

What is the evidence that proves this true?

Note: Evidence has to be something that is 100% definite. Not 90% or based on probability. Definite.

What is the evidence against?

Tell yourself 3 positives

What if I put my hand up to answer a question and get it wrong? What if I lose my friends because they would think I’m stupid?

If I put my hand up to answer, I will get it wrong and then I will lose all of my friends because they will think I’m stupid.

Note: Often this makes us realise how unlikely this would be. You might stop here if this is enough for you. Often though, you need to go a step further.

There is no evidence that I will get this wrong. There is no evidence that my friends think I’m stupid. There is no evidence that they would leave me.

I’ve done this question before and got it right in homework.  My friends are often saying how good I am at this subject.

  1. I am strong
  2. My friends have always been there for me
  3. I am good at this subject

You have now switched from emotional reasoning to logical reasoning. You are now in a better place to make choices. Go on! Put your hand up! It’s OK!

Whenever you are anxious, ask yourself if you are catastrophising.

If you are – use this strategy. But only once each time. Then make your choices.

To start with you will probably need to write your thoughts down. You can download the chart below.

de catastrophise pdf

After a while you will be able to just take yourself somewhere quiet and work through it in your head. Once you bring it into your everyday life, you will be able to mentally run through it when you are doing something else entirely.

Make it part of your mental health toolkit!