Author: Diana Gordon, Psy.D.
As anxiety specialists, we often work with patients who are struggling to manage anxiety about one or more major areas of their lives. We have a lot of different strategies that we use to work with anxiety, including skills from CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), ACT (Acceptance and Commitment therapy), and DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). Our goal is to teach people concrete skills that they can carry with them after therapy is complete to continue to manage challenging emotions, including anxiety.
One thinking pattern that is very common in anxious people is catastrophizing. Catastrophizing simply means imaging the worst case scenario, or the worst possible outcome, for any given situation. In this blog post, we will take you through a CBT tool for decatastrophizing. This process will teach you to identify your thoughts, evaluate whether they are factual, and identify alternative beliefs.
Step 1: Specify the catastrophic consequence clearly
Step 2: Change any “what if” statements into concrete declarations of fact
Step 3: Challenge your thoughts
Step 4: Come up with at least three true, balanced thoughts that reflect the evidence you discovered in step 3
Step 5: What are your next steps?
This decatastrophizing process is one way to cope with anxious thoughts that are based on feared outcomes that are unlikely to actually happen. When we are able to look at our situation rationally, we often find that anxious thoughts are not based in reality. When we decatastrophize, this often helps us bring our anxiety down to a manageable level so we can decide what to do next. At SF Bay CBT, our goal is to teach you a variety of tools that you can use when you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed to help yourself feel better. Feel free to reach out to us for a free phone consultation to learn more about the tools we use in our work.
Diana Gordon, Psy.D., Kari Kagan Psy.D., and Katie Leoni, Psy.D.
Drs. Gordon, Kagan, and Leoni practice psychotherapy in downtown San Francisco and Oakland. Their areas of expertise include anxiety, sleep, stress, depression, and addiction. They blog about these topics to provide research-based information about common problems and strategies to help manage them.