Worst Case Scenario Thinking - Stop Catastrophising

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ilbey Ucar
PhD (Psychology)

Last updated date : January 02, 2023

Has your imagination ever pulled you through a repeat cycle of worst-case scenarios? Often this involves presuming that you are in a worse situation than you are in. If the answer is yes, you may be suffering from ‘catastrophisingWorse case scenario thinking, difficulties are exagerated, dark and hopeless thoughts.’ This thought process serves to magnify thoughts and situations. It may result in the reality being blown out of proportion. In doing so, you support the negative and this may become the normal way of thinking in the future. This mental schema causes people to jump to the worst-case scenario thinking. This is usually based on very little unbiased information.

Catastrophising may lead to self-pity and an irrational belief about the situation. It may result in a feeling of hopelessness about future situations and prospects. Thus, it may define the presence or absence of other possibilities and prevent you from reaching your goals in life. As you continue to go against this worst-case scenario thinking, it will slowly decrease over time. Thereby, these thoughts will be replaced by more rational and balanced thinking. This article will talk about thinking trapsCertain types or patterns of thought that stop us from seeing things as they are. and catastrophising. It will also discuss their adverse effects, and how to improve catastrophic thinking.

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  Parents arguing in the background, teenage child with hand on head, catastrophising

Chapter 1:

What Is Catastrophising?

Catastrophising is another common thinking trap. It assumes worst-case scenario thinking. Another term for catastrophising is magnifying. It occurs when you amplify the significance of unimportant events or their possible results. Thus, people who catastrophise become anxious as they amplify the likelihood of a poor result. Even though we all experience setbacks, a catastrophiser may view that as the end of the world. For example, catastrophising actions include presuming that by expecting the worst, they will be less hurt if things go wrong.

Chapter 2:

Who Created the Term “Catastrophise”?

The term catastrophising was coined by a psychologist named Albert Ellis. He was the founder of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, which is a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Thus, he outlined catastrophising as having an ‘irrationally negative forecast of future events.’

Chapter 3:

Some Examples of Catastrophising

Here are some examples:
  1. A break-up is thought to mean that a person is unlovable.
  2. After breaking their diet, a person thinks that they are a failure at dieting.
  3. A child watches a horror movie and thinks that it will all happen in reality.
  4. After getting food poisoning from eating out, a person thinks that food from all restaurants will make them sick.
  5. If a student fails a test, they believe they will be kicked out of school and disowned by their parents for it.
  6. A person gets a pimple and thinks everyone will think they are ugly.

Chapter 4:

What Is Catastrophic Thinking a Sign Of?

Worst case scenario thinking has been linked with many adverse experiences and conduct, such as depression and anxiety. Also, it has been linked to anger-related problems as well. It can be a habit of people who have a social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or other conditions. However, one may also engage in catastrophising conduct without having a diagnosable disorder.

Chapter 5:

Catastrophising Amongst Children and Teens

Catastrophising may harm children and teens as well. For instance, sleep-related catastrophising is common amongst children. Furthermore, a child may worry about the worst possible result of getting a poor grade in school.

Chapter 6:

What Is Pain Catastrophising?

In addition to other conditions such as anxiety and depression, some people may catastrophise over pain. This refers to when a person always worries about pain. A person may feel weak when they struggle with pain and are unable to put worries of pain aside.

More specifically, people with chronic pain have a lower quality of life if they think about their pain as extreme. This may lead to intense feelings of hopelessness, or even depression.

Chapter 7:

What Are Thinking Traps?

Another term for thinking patterns is cognitive distortions. Thinking traps are distorted thought patterns or unhelpful thinking styles. They can be easy to fall into and may not be rational at all. They usually include a negative swing which stops us from seeing things as they are. This adds to our anxiety.

It is very easy to fall into negative thinking patterns because it’s a part of how we as humans are wired. The human brain reacts more strongly to negative events than to positive ones. For example, you may be more likely to remember insults rather than praises. During tough times, negative thoughts are more likely to get out of control. Understanding our thoughts is the most potent thing we can do to take responsibility for our lives.

In cognitive-behavioural therapy, all thinking traps have something in common. Thus, all thinking traps do not meet the criteria for appropriate thinking. When something sudden happens, we tend to slip into negative thinking patterns. Common thinking traps consist of catastrophising and mind reading. They also include over-generalisation, personalisation, and many others.

Chapter 8:

Common Thinking Traps That Stop You From Achieving Your Goals

Here are some common thinking traps
  • Mind Reading

We think that we can read the mind of others and that we know what they are thinking. We assume that they are thinking the lowest of us. This often leads to a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Thus, we act as if the other person hates us making them pull away. Examples of Mind Reading: ‘He didn’t say hello. He must hate me.’

  • Labelling

Labelling occurs when you assign a negative label to either yourself or someone else. You fail to recognise that everyone makes mistakes. Examples of Labeling: ‘I’m a complete failure.’

  • Personalisation Thinking that one’s own or others actions and thoughts are personally related.

This is when you assume responsibility for something. You think that everything others do or say is a personal reaction to something you’ve said or done. The truth may be that it may have nothing to do with you. Example of personalisation: ‘My partner is upset with me. I must have done something wrong.’

  • Over-Generalisation

This is when something difficult happens and you assume it is going to happen over and over again. This pattern tends to restrict your life. Example of Over-Generalisation: ‘Why does this always happen to me?’

  • Emotional Reasoning

This is a common thinking trap that we often fall into. We take our feelings as evidence for the truth. When you use emotional reasoning, you think what you’re feeling in that moment is true, despite the evidence. Thus, this can be harmful as it creates an endless loop of pain negative thoughts. Example of Emotional Reasoning: ‘I feel stupid, thus, I am stupid.’

Chapter 9:

Decatastrophising and Cognitive Restructuring

Worst case scenario thinking is a risky mindset.

If catastrophic thinking affects daily functioning, CBT can provide solid coping skills. You can learn CBT tips and skills online. The cognitive restructuring includes considering one’s thought process about a real or potential situation.

Cognitive restructuring has four steps: 
  1. Recognise dysfunctional automatic thoughts.
  2. Recognise cognitive distortions.
  3. Discuss automatic thoughts.
  4. Create logical denial to automatic thoughts.

Following this, the client will meet with a therapist who will provide coping skills. The therapist will work with the client to figure out dysfunctional assessments of situations. The therapist guides the client to replace them with more useful ones. This often entails role-playing to mimic situations such that possible threats are viewed as doable.

Taking on a positive point of view improves self-regard. This in turn may increase positive emotional well-being. Thus, cognitive restructuring can be used by anyone trying to see the positive side of things in life.

Chapter 10:

Examples of Decatastrophising

Decatastrophising is a simple way to change negative catastrophising thoughts into healthier thinking patterns. 
  • After a breakup, a person may feel that they will never find love. A healthy way to grasp this situation would be to think that the relationship ended because they were not a good match.
  • After losing their job, a person may think they will never get a good job. A healthy way to grasp this situation would be to think that they have many strengths and will work on improving their flaws.
  • An individual may feel ugly because of a pimple. The healthy approach would be to think breakouts are not forever.
  • A person may feel they are doomed to be overweight and will never lose weight. A healthy way to think of this situation would be to think that they will continue to be healthy and active.
  • A person may think they are terrible at small talk. A healthy way to grasp this would be to recall doing well in social gatherings before.

Chapter 11:

Different Treatments for Catastrophising


If you often find yourself having negative thinking patterns, you may gain from mindfulness. It might help you identify the baseless thoughts. It may also help you to control your thoughts in a better manner. Mindfulness has been used for thousands of years. Not only does it help stop you from thinking the worse, but it can also help with other aspects of mental well-being.


In case your catastrophising is linked to another condition, such as depression or anxiety, a doctor may advise medication. There is no specific medication that treats catastrophising. That said if your worst-case thinking is driven by depression. Treating your depression might help stop you from spiralling down thinking traps.

Chapter 12:

Six Tips to Cope With Catastrophising

Six tips to rectify your irrational thinking include using the following techniques:
Realising that unpleasant things happen

Everyone’s life has good and bad days. Just, because one day is bad does not mean all days will be bad. This can and often is light after darkness.

Admitting when thoughts are illogical

This kind of thinking often arises in a certain way. A person may begin thinking ‘My head is hurting today.’ They will then expand on this thought with worry, such as ‘my headache will only get worse.’ Thus, a person can cope with these thoughts only when they begin to realise these thought patterns.

Saying ‘Stop’

To stop the endless negative thoughts, a person may have to say ‘stop’ out loud or in their head. This may help a person change their thinking patterns. It can help snap out negativity.

Think about a different result

Instead of worst-case scenario thinking, think of a positive or less negative result.

Using positive affirmations

When it comes to negative thinking, a person has to have faith that they can overcome the worst. They may find it helpful to repeat some positive affirmations to themselves daily.

Practising good self-care

Worst case scenario thinking usually occurs when a person is stressed or tired. Thus, it is vital to get enough rest. Sleep, exercise and a good diet are the foundation blocks of good self-care. People should engage in stress-relieving techniques such as meditation to feel better.

Chapter 13:


We all look to the dark side. But, when this becomes a constant way of thinking, it becomes a real problem. Besides this, it may also begin to affect your quality of life. There are many examples of catastrophic thinking in daily life. Examples include constant worry over health issues or a failed relationship. People with such conduct feel weak over their inability to cope with threats. Thus, this article gives useful information for readers on how to stop catastrophising. It will aid people to experience peace of mind and positive thinking that comes from looking at life through a hopeful lens. We hope this article has been helpful. You will find more articles on ‘thinking traps‘ on our website. Please share if you’ve found it helped and think someone else could benefit.  

"Quizzes and recommendations were very uselful" Donna

87 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount