Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive Distortions: Does your mind jump to the worst case scenario?

For the next few months I will be addressing the issues of cognitive distortions. You may be asking what cognitive distortions are? Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn't really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves.

There is a number of cognitive distortions that can impact our way of thinking. For today's blog we will be looking at the distortion of catastrophizing. The cognitive distortion of catastrophizing is pretty much what you might think it is: making something into a catastrophe when it's not. When we catastrophize, we tell our selves that something is so awful, so terrible, that we won't be able to handle it. That we would fall apart, or die. The more we tell ourselves the problem we are facing is a catastrophe, the more hopeless and helpless we will feel to effectively cope with it. Does this sound familiar?

Catastrophizing can result in increased anxiety and depression, and can make difficult situations feel even worse than they already are. As previously discussed in past blogs (see link at the end of this blog), CBT targets maladaptive thought process to target depression or anxiety directly. CBT provides several ways of rethinking catastrophic thinking to help you better handle adversity.

Firstly, when you recognize catastrophizing, first ask yourself what about this situation is so terrible? Have you dealt with similar situations in the past? If so, did you survive? If you did survive, (and presumably you did) how?  What did you do to weather the difficulty?

How do you think you will feel about this situation a month from now? Do you imagine your feelings will be just as strong? What do you think you will probably do to move on? How about a year from now, how do you think you will think and feel about the situation? Would your feelings be as intense? And two years from now? We often find that challenges often lose their emotional intensity and perceived importance over time. Think back to what you were most worried about five years ago and how it turned out. Do you even remember what you were concerned about then?

Taking yourself out of the situation to look at the bigger picture can have a drastic positive impact on the tunnel vision on the worst case scenario. Recognizing catastrophizing and considering other perspectives can reduce your belief that the situation is terrible or hopeless. By feeling better and more confident, you can effectively manage the situation. You are more likely to respond to the challenge skillfully, and with less emotional pain. The next time you hear yourself catastrophizing, try considering some of these other lines of reasoning, and see what happens. 

If you are experiencing cognitive distortions, CBT can address and resolve these negative feelings alongside a therapist that will support you through the process.

For more information on what CBT is please visit:

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Thank you for reading. Have a great day.

Jessica Leigh