There are times when we all worry about something happening. However, some people have a cognitive disorder that will cause a person to elicit beliefs that the situation is far worse than it is in reality. This is known as catastrophizing. It is a disorder that causes a person to see every upsetting situation as catastrophic. We all face difficult situations but we don’t all see them as catastrophic.

Some will dismiss this disorder as being overly dramatic or exaggerated, but it isn’t as simple as that. Most people don’t notice they are catastrophizing. They feel like they are thinking logically until they are made aware of the problem. God did not design us to worry about the small or big things in life. He designed us to seek Him and let the worry take care of itself.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  –  Matthew 6:33-34, NASB

Signs of catastrophizing

Most of the time this type of thinking is a symptom of underlying mental health conditions. It’s not always easy to know when the negative thinking is spiraling so here are seven signs to help identify catastrophizing thought processes.

Experience negative self-talk

Self-talk is the inner dialog you have with yourself that helps navigate life. When this becomes critical and discouraging it is called negative self-talk.

Racing thoughts

This occurs when your thoughts are constantly coming one after the other jumping from one subject to another.

Overthinking situations or events

Overthinking is simply repeatedly dwelling on the same situation over and over again so much that it disrupts everyday life.

Overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety, depression, or pessimism

Having a fear or negative view of life.

Feeling stuck in your head

Some people who experience this have difficulty making decisions and have a problem with procrastination.

Overwhelming feelings of anger or fear

Some people can become angry or fearful thinking the worst in every situation.

Constantly searching for solutions on the internet

The need to understand the situation drives some people to search for the answer on Google.

Conditions associated with catastrophizing

It is not clear of the exact cause of catastrophizing. Some think it could be linked to a coping mechanism that is learned while growing up and some believe it is related to brain chemistry. There are a few common conditions that are associated with catastrophizing.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is one of the more common conditions that is associated with catastrophizing. The person with some type of chronic pain may feel helpless when the pain never decreases or stops. Most of the time the person isn’t exaggerating about the pain, just about how it has caused them to have a lower quality of life.


It is common to connect anxiety and depression with catastrophic thinking. Believing the worst is going to happen will increase the fear and hopelessness a person feels.


When a person is consumed with negative thinking it is hard for them to get proper sleep. The racing thoughts or fear keeps them from falling asleep and staying asleep.

Common treatments for catastrophizing

Because catastrophizing is associated with mental health issues, it can be treated with a combination of therapies and medications. There are also things that a person can do to limit the occurrence or intensity of the negative thought process of catastrophic thinking.

Talk therapy is one of the most common types of therapy used for catastrophizing. The top three types of talk therapy are:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Using this type of therapy will help the person learn to reframe negative thought processes.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Modeled from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, this therapy gives more attention to self-acceptance and emotion regulation.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

When this type of therapy is used the person may feel more comfortable with understanding that worry and fear are normal emotions. This can help with learning to break the cycle of intense negative thinking.

Next steps

Having thoughts of worry or fear is sometimes part of life. When these feelings are intense and continuous they can become problematic. If you feel that you or a loved one is suffering from catastrophizing don’t hesitate to contact a local Christian counselor. They can create a Scripture-based treatment plan to help break the cycle of always thinking the worst.

“Daisies”, Courtesy of Daiga Ellaby,, CC0 License