Catastrophe Anxiety: What Is It And What Can You Do About it?

Catastrophe anxiety, or put just as well, catastrophic thinking, is a kind of anxiety disorder defined in Psychology Today as "ruminating about irrational worst-case outcomes".

In other words, catastrophe anxiety occurs when someone experiences uncontrollable anxiety over 'catastrophic' or life-threatening experiences despite the realistic odds of these experiences were extremely low by all or most other standards. For example, it's reasonable to experience anxiety when the television news says that a tornado might be coming in your direction. This is not catastrophe anxiety. Catastrophe anxiety is experiencing anxiety about a tornado that does not exist and has not been forecast; the mere fact that it 'could' occur, at some point in the future, is enough to launch an episode of catastrophe anxiety.

Generally, catastrophe anxiety develops out of very little. It generally calls for a lot of uncalled-for speculation; something as simple as the tone of another person's voice may be enough to kick off a cascade of thoughts that begin with, 'Is this person angry with me?' and end with 'My boss is obviously getting ready to fire me' despite the absolute dearth of any real evidence linking the tone of their voice with the likelihood of that person firing them.

Catastrophe anxiety isn't only limited to actual, large –scale catastrophes such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks. People can experience catastrophe anxiety over small-scale potential experiences, including public speaking. They undergo a thought process that features a lot of imagined scenarios of things going extremely poorly—catastrophically so.

Treatment for Catastrophe Anxiety

Treatment for catastrophe anxiety and catastrophic thinking is not much different than treatment for any anxiety disorder, which means that the symptoms can be controlled through the use of prescribed medications, or the disorder could see some resolution by way of cognitive-behavioral therapy is administered by a qualified professional therapist or counselor.


It is also important that people with catastrophe anxiety do their utmost to try and recognize the patterns of such thinking and the sources so they might be able to evaluate the situation with a more detached and unbiased mindset.

Consequences of Catastrophe Anxiety

People who struggle with catastrophic thinking can convince themselves to make lifestyle decisions that are contrary to their better judgment or that can interfere with their personal or professional lives. They may choose not to leave the home for fear of being involved in a terrorist attack or crossing a bridge that might collapse. It can turn into a clinical phobia and alter the course of a person's life.

Photo: Pexels

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