D is for Decatastrophising
D is for Decatastrophising

As promised in my very first A-Z Meditation and Mindfulness blog on the subject of awareness and anxiety, here is my experience of learning how to decatastrophise events and my thinking.

First off, I need to ensure you that we are on the right track.

When I was suffering badly from my general anxiety disorder, I was constantly catastrophising most situations, events and appointments. This basically involves thinking that something bad will happen or that my situation was far worse than it actually was. At the height of my condition, I locked myself away for months and would not go out, not even to attend work. This was the finale after upsetting friends and family by saying I’ll do this with them and then pull out at the last minute with some lame excuse, because in reality, I couldn’t face it for fear of something bad happening and then feeling anxious about being confronted or thinking that I’m going to end up with nothing. It was a merry go round of sleepless nights, crying for nothing, closing myself off, declining parties and engagements, constantly making mistakes and feeling very down.

Anxiety and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

I did a search online for counselling/therapy in my local area and via the NHS I did a quick and easy self referral that led to an adviser conducting a quick assessment over the phone.  At this point I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder.  The adviser recommended a course of CBT. 

It wasn’t until I went to the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions that I became mindful of what irrational fear was, how I was creating it and most importantly, how to manage it.

If like me you’re suffering from anxiety, it’s really important that you get therapy or counselling and for you to know that you’re not alone.  In a nutshell, CBT will provide you with the ability to face your irrational fear by decatastrophising it and I’m going to be brave and write about my first one-to-one session with the therapist. 

Obviously, you need to remember that when you’re suffering, everything is out of proportion and I’m actually cringing that I’m going to write this down now for you as I do feel silly, but when it’s in your head and you have no control and it’s not the only thought or problem you have, it’s not silly then.

Therapist:  What is it that you don’t like about work?

Me:  I don’t know

Genuinely felt on the spot as I didn’t know

Therapist:  There must be something?

Awkward silence as I started floundering.  I wanted to say that I don’t like catching the train, but I felt awkward and weak as a person.  The silence continued so I blurted it out..

Me:  I don’t like catching the train

Therapist:  Why not? 

Oh no, here we go again.  It was true that I didn’t like catching the train, but I didn’t know why.  I started asking myself why and I was scrambling for answers and feeling very silly

Me: Err I think something bad will happen

Therapist:  What might happen?

Nooooooooooo this is never ending.  Seriously my head was getting messed up now. What’s the bad thing that will happen I asked myself?

Me:  The train might not come

Therapist:  Then what?

Me:  I’ll have to catch the next train

Therapist: Then what?

Me: I’ll be late for work

Therapist:  Then what?

Me:  I’ll have to explain that the train was late

Therapist: And what do you think will happen then?

At this point I realised that nothing bad would happen, not in my case as my employers are very understanding.  It’s not like this scenario is going to happen everyday.  I decided to tell her my other fear…

Me: Well I might get stuck with a psycho who will be very nice to me, but he’ll follow me and do something bad

Therapist: What are the chances of that?

Now I had the therapist as I did actually get stuck with someone years ago who followed me home, but nothing bad happened

Me:  It could happen.  A guy asked me for a light at the train station when I was popping into town years ago. He got on the train with me, talked all the way to town, got off the train and came shopping with me.  I was being polite, but I was thinking of how to get home without him coming with me.  I was too scared to say ‘goodbye’. I told him that I needed to make a phone call, (in the days before mobile) and I phoned my sister and told her to get people round to my place so that I wouldn’t be on my own.

Therapist:  What happened?

Me: He came back, had a brew and then we all walked to the train station and he left

Therapist: So nothing bad happened?

Me: No, but it could have

Therapist: So what would you do if it happened again?

Me: I wouldn’t let it.  I’d say that I’ve got to go now and if he wouldn’t leave me alone, I’d call the police

Decatastrophising Summary

CBT taught me to distinguish between real problems and irrational fear by asking what if. 

Real problems need to be broken down and managed. 

To put a stop to those irrational fears from spiraling out of control, you have to confront the worst case scenario by asking, ‘then what‘ until you can’t go any further. 

I can’t say that I enjoyed the sessions, but it has helped me to manage my anxiety. To help you with this, I’ve found a worksheet via Therapist Aid that is worth looking at, but please seek help from a professional.  Decatastrophizing Worksheet from Therapist Aid

Anxiety Help

Please note that I don’t have any qualifications to manage your mental health and I can only offer you general advice from my own experiences. Please consult your GP if you’re struggling with your mental health as they will get you the help you need.

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