Some answers and perspectives from the Health Stuff TO Know Mental Health Newsletter.
What is Catastrophizing?
Is Catastrophizing part of ADHD?
As you go about your busy day, please, “…Clap along if you know what happiness is to you…”
In today’s newsletter, I share a common thinking error that negatively affects our mental health.
It’s a habit called “catastrophizing.” Below, I explain what it is, how it affects us, how we manage it, and more.
✅ For today: Worst possible things. The fastest way to downhill thinking is to embrace the path of negative thinking. That’s to say: if you think the worst & only the worst… Guess, what? The worst tends to happen.
Just a few hours ago, my dog threw up some foamy white stuff. He was smiling and bouncing 2 minutes after the deed. But, care to guess what we did for the next two hours?
👉 Yup, we spent a lot of time researching all the different things that could have caused my doggo to throw up all that foamy stuff.
And, as you can imagine, somewhere in between those searches, your brain starts to wander: and all you end up seeing is doom and gloom.
👉 Only the worst possible outcomes. Only the worst possible scenarios.
In medicine, we call this: catastrophizing.
👉 If this is you–I’ve got a simple step for you. ⤵
✅ One simple step to take when our minds start racing towards imagining the worst possible outcomes is to understand that our brain is simply trying to make sense of the problem. Your brain needs space & time.
Catastrophizing forces your brain to jump to conclusions. If this habit of catastrophizing continues to build, 3 things are likely to happen:
- You’ll be frozen & stuck.
- The likelihood of the worst happening increases because you’re engaged in irrational thinking.
- You end up not solving the problem. The problem actually gets larger and larger.
👉 You don’t have to keep enduring this cycle. You’re not alone.
Next time you’ve started Catastrophizing, do this:
- Step away from the situation.
- Make some room for time to do its thing.
👉 Tell yourself, “Yo! I’ve been here before.”
By giving time to let the issue simmer & not catastrophize, you’re ensuring that you won’t panic. You’re ensuring that you’ll be able to properly assess the situation in front of you.
💎 You’re ensuring a greater chance of succeeding.
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✅ Cycles. A common myth that people tend to believe is that people with ADHD tend to be lazy.
📢 Ummm… NO.
From the outside, lookin’ in, unfortunately, it sometimes does appear that the ADHD brain is jumping from one task to another. It looks like they don’t finish tasks. And, the world around them looks chaotic and messy.
But, I want you to know that the above examples INCORRECTLY characterize the situation.
One of the key markers of ADHD is that the ADHD brain regulates time & attention differently.
So, what this basically means is that the ADHD brain may find certain tasks boring or repetitive. Since the tasks are boring, they may actually avoid doing things that you find easy and manageable.
📢 Paying bills on time may seem easy and logical to you; but, for the ADHD brain, this simple task is boring and repetitive. As such, they don’t finish.
On the other hand —
🧠 Sometimes, for the ADHD brain, a task can be very attractive.
Here, you’ll find that the ADHD brain is hyperfocused on one task. You’ll see that something you may have quit 4 hours ago, the ADHD brain still continues to problem solve 8 hours later.
And, this too sends wrong signals to outsiders lookin’ in.
Most people with ADHD are smart & productive.
They just measure and value time slightly differently!
Questions & Answers…
✅ Is Catastrophizing a mental illness?
👉 The answer here is going to be: a yes, no, & maybe!
🧨 Yes: If you find that Catastrophizing is affecting your quality of life, your finances, social relationships, or daily routines–then, the answer will be a yes.
When you’re talking to your healthcare professional, make sure you have examples of incidences where you felt that Catastrophizing took over your life & where you felt that there was no way out of the quagmire.
👉 No: If you find that Catastrophizing is happening occasionally, and it’s not a totally severe reaction to some outside trigger. And, these small episodes of Catastrophizing are well managed. Then, the answer is, generally, a no.
Because we’re human–life can get tough–and our minds can sometimes race. It’s ok to be stressed once in a while.
👉 Maybe: If you’ve experienced a stressful event and now you’re finding that memories or actions of the event or others remind you OR push you into a state of Catastrophizing.
👉 Then, it’s a maybe.
We want to make sure that you’re NOT experiencing PTSD. When in doubt, it’s certainly worth talking to your Physician about your issue.
✅ The New York Times recently published a great interview with Jane Goodall.
She talks about a variety of things including her long career. Goodall also ends up talking about Catastrophizing in a different but important way. She talks about Human resilience and her optimism for the future.
Goodall said that she finds her optimism by keeping a clear head and maintaining an expectation that the next generation will do good. It’s too easy to think of gloom and doom, “…You just plod on and do what you can to make the world a better place…” There’s comfort in that.
I think all the physicians here at Health Stuff TO Know find that such an attitude on life can provide tremendous positive benefits!
Reviewed & written by Dr. Puja, DO November 2, 2021