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What is catastrophic thinking and how to manage it

What is catastrophic thinking and how to manage it

When something really bad happens to you, how do you think about your future?

Catastrophists think, everything will end now and my life will be destroyed. This mindset turns out to be a huge barrier to happiness and, even worse, is a major risk factor for post-traumatic stress.

On their first day in the military, 79,438 US Army soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan took a psychological questionnaire, asking them to rate how they felt through these options:

"When bad things happen to me, I expect more bad things to happen"

"When bad things happen to me, I blame myself for them"

"I have no control over the things that happen to me"

"When bad things happen to me, I can't stop thinking about how much worse things will get."

"When I have a physical problem, I tend to think it's something very serious"

"When I fail at something, I give up all hope"

"I respond to stress by making things worse than they are."

This questionnaire found that those who experienced severe combat stress were almost four times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress during the course of their service.

But what is the lesson for the rest of us?

If you think negatively you are likely to suffer more from bad events. If you do the opposite, i.e. have an optimistic mindset, you are likely to be more resilient and cope better.