Having moments when you focus on worst-case scenarios or scary what-if situations is normal. As human beings, we tend to picture these kinds of possibilities to prepare ourselves for potential trouble in the future.
However, if you find yourself constantly ruminating on bad possibilities, this type of thinking, called catastrophic thinking, can have terrible effects on your life.
- Catastrophic thinking can ruin your chances for good things in life.
Psychology Today describes how catastrophic thinking can keep you from chasing after your dreams and living a fulfilling life. Working toward goals requires a lot of work–and risk-taking–to achieve them. If you’re too consumed imagining all the bad things that could happen, you’ll never allow yourself to spend time working toward achieving good things for yourself.
- Catastrophic thinking steals your inner peace.
Catastrophic thinking takes worries and stress above normal levels. Feeling worried is normal; everyone has times that make them feel stressed or out of control. However, when catastrophic thinking settles in, these thoughts happen more frequently than usual, leading to crippling fear.
For example, pretend you’re having a typical night at work when it suddenly begins to rain. When you see the rain hitting the roadways, you think about your wife driving home from her day shift.
You immediately begin to think of all the ways she could get hurt–a bad car accident, another driver sliding off the road and into her vehicle, or even a flash flood across the roadway. Is it likely that the rainy drive home will lead to your wife’s imminent demise? Absolutely not. Does the possibility feel very real to someone with catastrophic thinking issues? Yes!
- Catastrophic thinking can damage relationships.
People who suffer with catastrophic thinking can also have issues maintaining strong and healthy relationships.
Because people with catastrophic thinking tendencies often visualize horrible things happening to the people they love, these constant, scary thoughts can cause them to be overprotective or highly cautious.
While being cautious and protective aren’t the wrong ways to be toward your loved ones, too much can feel incredibly smothering. If your mind is obsessed with catastrophic thinking, it can cause people to stay away from you. Rather than strengthening your bond with your loved ones, catastrophic thinking can ruin your chances to build a meaningful relationship with someone.
- Catastrophic thinking consumes your attention from truly important things in life.
If you spend all your time obsessing on catastrophic thoughts, you lose time and focus on other vital parts of life.
Some worrying is normal (and can even help you stay focused on avoiding bad situations). Still, when the worrying enters the realm of catastrophic thinking, you lose focus and energy for the critical parts of your life.
If you’re spending time obsessing over imaginary situations and convoluted fantasies, you aren’t spending that time focusing on things that need your attention. Plans, relationships, to-do lists, fun activities, and more all fall to the wayside when you spend time obsessing over worst-case scenarios.
- Catastrophic thinking makes living an everyday and happy life nearly impossible.
When left untreated, catastrophic thoughts make living an everyday and happy life seemingly impossible. While you can learn to control your catastrophic thinking, not everyone does–this can quickly lead to missed opportunities, failed romances, and more.
When your energy is spent feeding into catastrophic thoughts, you feel crippled when it’s time to take action, make decisions, and live life. Rather than taking a chance and trying something new, you immediately stop trying when you think of how everything can go wrong.