Dealing with Catastrophic Thinking and Anxiety

February 2, 2015 Becky Oberg

I'm anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow, I have an upper endoscopy scheduled so we can hopefully find out why I'm having abdominal pain and why I recently had pancreatitis. I have a little of what a friend calls "scan-xiety"--nervousness over what the test results may be. I'm guilty of some catastrophic thinking - what if it's pancreatic cancer? - but I've got three coping skills that are helpful. Here's how to handle catastrophic thinking and anxiety.

Dealing with Catastrophic Thinking and Anxiety: Be Realistic

To fight my catastrophic thinking and anxiety, I have to be realistic about what to expect. More than likely, according to Dr. Mom, it's a highly treatable ulcer. In other words, it's probably no big deal. And regardless of what the test results show, I can accept it by the grace of God. I'm not going through this alone. I have a lot of support: my faith, my family, my therapist, my psychiatrist and my friends. I have a good support system, and that's something to be thankful for.

The odds of it being cancer are very slim. The odds of having something removed are slim. So why worry? While some anxiety is normal, ultimately there's nothing I can do about it. As the Serenity Prayer says, "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change."

So don't think the worst case scenario (catastrophe) will happen. Instead, focus on the now. Anxiety of many kinds lessens when you keep your mind in the present.

Dealing with Catastrophic Thinking and Anxiety: Talk About How You Feel

When something unpleasant is coming up, many experience anxiety and catastrophic thinking. Here's how to handle catastrophic thinking and anxiety.As I said earlier, I have a great support system. There is no shortage of people I can talk to about how I feel to fight the catastrophic thinking and anxiety. Even if you have only one person to talk to, take the opportunity to do so. Fear lessens when named, and the other person can often help you see your catastrophic thinking or your pessimism.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I have people I can talk to. And I plan to do so. My therapist will help me face my fear and, if it's stress that's causing my symptoms, help me learn and master coping skills to deal with said stress. My psychiatrist will help me manage my medication, adjusting it if necessary and making sure any new medications don't interact with the ones I'm already on. My Alcoholic's Anonymous sponsor will help me not to drink over this. So I'm in good shape, regardless of what happens tomorrow.

Everyone has at least one person they can talk to. Even if you think you don't, I believe that there is a God who cares for us. I believe that the Creator of the Universe can take our anger and rage and help us realize the bigger picture. I believe that the God of the Atom understands our emotions and can help us feel better. Faith, as Willa Cather once said, is a gift.

Dealing with Catastrophic Thinking and Anxiety: Channel the Pain

I like to write in my spare time. I also like music, even though my singing leaves a little to be desired. I've found that writing songs about what's happening, how I feel and what coping skills I plan to use, channels the pain into something constructive.

You may not be an artist, and that's fine. But you have a way to channel your pain into something that helps. You don't have to rely on negative coping skills. Write. Sing. Play music. Draw. Do community service. Play video games. Meditate. There is always a way to channel the pain if you look for it.

So, as Jesus said, do not worry about tomorrow, but let tomorrow worry about itself, for each day has enough trouble of its own.

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APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2015, February 2). Dealing with Catastrophic Thinking and Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Becky Oberg

selma davis
December, 18 2015 at 4:17 pm

Thank you for this article. I find this behavior runs rampant in us. I used to be like that. I have tempered it a lot. When I was very young and unable to grasp what my therapist was suggesting, she lent me Jon kabat zinn's book on catastrophic thinking. Little by little I got it. Has changed my life but is a process, never ending. I use positive visualization and meditation. Or I take sides, what is the best that could happen and what is the worse. Some where in the middle tends to be the norm. Then I can let go and focus on the event in a more positive way. It takes too much time and energy to go to the darker side. Besides life is full of twists and turns so IF the worst happens I will deal with it. Life seems full of coincidences and sometimes the worst has a way of turning out to be the best. Usually this is not immediately seen. But it will raise it's hand and notify you . I hope your scan turned out for the best.

December, 4 2015 at 9:18 am

Thank you for sharing this! This gives me hope that working (upcoming) with a therapist can help! I have a good psychiatrist, too. And I need to remember my faith and spend some serious time talking with God when this kind of thinking starts creeping up on me!

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