Emotional Wellbeing


Mandy Kloppers

Catastrophising and decatastrophising

One way of the many ways that we increase our anxiety is when we catastrophise. When we catastrophise we make a mountain out of a molehill. It is one of the most common errors in thinking. Perhaps our boss is a bit off with us and we start wondering if we have done something wrong, which then leads to a thought about that last project that we didn’t hand in on time. This could then make us worry that perhaps we might lose our job… “Will I be fired?”. This is an example of catastrophising.

We take a small part of reality, make assumptions and end up focusing on thoughts that might be completely inaccurate. We all tend to catastrophise at times. I do it but often manage to ‘catch’ myself doing it now. I then know to immediately stop focusing on these thoughts and try to think of a more rational alternative.

Here is a good way to decatastrophise:

Ask yourself:   What is the catastrophe that I am worried about?

What if something bad happens? (too general)

What if my health never gets better? (“what if”…change this to a statement):

My health will never get better

RATE how awful this catastrophe would be out of 100:   eg: 90 out of 100 (100 being the worst)

How likely is this event to happen?

Has anything this bad ever happened to you before?

How often does this kind of thing happen to you?

Realistically, is this likely to happen now?

Example: Unlikely, I have been ill before and got better.


How awful would it be if this did happen?

What is the worst case scenario? What is the best case scenario?

What would a friend say to me about my worry? (This question helps you to see your problem from a different viewpoint).

Just supposing the worst did happen, what would I do to cope?

Has anything similar happened before? How did I cope then? Who or what could I call on to help me get through it? What resources, skills, or abilities would be helpful to me if it did happen? (Look at your strengths! Could you possibly cope?)

Example: We coped when I was ill before. I could still do some things, and family helped us. We’ve got savings, and have made changes to our lifestyle before

What positive & reassuring thing do you want to say to yourself about the ‘catastrophe’ now?

Example: It’s scary being ill, but what I’m afraid of is unlikely to happen. It’s never happened before, and things never stay at their worst forever.

RATE how awful catastrophe would be:   the rating should now be lower. eg: 40 out of 100.

Look at the factual statement: My health will never get better.

Challenge the truth of this statement:


My health is bad now, but I’ve been ill before and got better.

The doctor said most people recover fully from this condition.

My husband said he would help even if things stayed bad.

Now take the concrete statement of fact: “My health will never get better ” and come up with 3 positive alternative statements:


My health will probably get better.

I’m at my worst now – even if I don’t recover fully I’m likely to get better than this.

Even while I’m ill I’m able to do some things I enjoy.

We believe our thoughts too easily. Learn to challenge your thoughts more readily – they are thoughts, not facts. If you do this, you will find your anxiety levels reduce.

Mandy X

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