ua en ru

Combat anxiety: Overcoming 'catastrophic thinking'

Combat anxiety: Overcoming 'catastrophic thinking' How to overcome anxiety (photo: Freepik)

During the war, Ukrainians constantly face significant emotional upheavals. Anxious thoughts affect not only mental well-being but also physical health. Certain psychological practices help reduce emotional stress. Psychologist Iryna Iokhna tells how to overcome anxiety and "catastrophic thinking."

What is "catastrophic thinking"?

"Catastrophic thinking is a tendency to envision the worst possible outcomes in situations with a high risk of something bad happening, despite there being many other more probable outcomes," explains the psychologist.

A person prone to catastrophizing may have a dysfunctional schema: expecting catastrophe.

It is formed through:

  • traumatic experiences and stressful events in childhood
  • lack of secure attachment in childhood
  • overprotection by parents, limiting independence
  • parents modeling hyperanxiety
  • an anxious temperament

How to overcome anxiety and "catastrophic thinking"

"Thoughts are the most common cause of anxiety. The ability to think, analyze, and predict is a tremendous asset. However, sometimes thoughts turn against us and lead to anxiety. That's why when working with anxiety, we're working with thoughts," says the expert.

The "thought stopping" technique:

  • step 1 - When you notice thoughts that usually accompany anxiety, ask yourself, "Is this thought helpful?" "Does it make me feel better?"
  • step 2 - If the answers are "no," close your eyes and imagine a "STOP" sign
  • step 3 - Then, focus on grounding yourself, concentrate on yourself. Breathe calmly, take a few slow breaths.
  • step 4 - Think, "What is really happening here?" "What am I doing?"
  • step 5 - Do something that will help you feel better: try to rebuild the thought, rephrase the idea, take a walk, talk to your partner, have a cup of tea. Do something that will help you distract yourself.

To get rid of catastrophic thinking, answer the following questions:

  • What am I predicting, what am I fearing?
  • How likely is such a development of events?
  • Are there other possible outcomes?
  • Have I made such predictions in the past?
  • Have these predictions come true in the past?
  • What are other potential outcomes?
  • What are the consequences of believing in such thoughts?
  • How does this affect my emotions and behavior?
  • What would be the consequences of shifting towards more realistic thinking?