4 Ways to Minimize 'Catastrophizing' When You Have Depression


Today I got the coffee pot all set to go and forgot to turn it on. The other day, speaking on my cell phone while driving (hands-free), I realized I had missed a turn several minutes (and quite a few miles) after passing it. Another time recently, I struggled for a bit trying to find my car in a parking garage I had never before used. Do any of these sound familiar to you? All of things happen for various reasons. Sometimes we may have a lot on our mind or we may be in the midst of a conversation. However, they are quite common and we typically do not fret about them. In fact, we often chuckle about these types of mishaps or moments of absentmindedness.

However, in my case, when these things occurred during my major depression, they were unjustified evidence I was spiraling down, falling deeper into depression, in dire straits. I would ruminate on these mental lapses and turn them into something much larger than they were. This is one type of catastrophizing that can occur during depression. Catastrophizing is not a healthy thought pattern and can be harmful to one’s mental health (even if not in the midst of depression).

Here are a few methods that may be useful in order to minimize, and hopefully end, the catastrophizing:

1. Recognize when it is happening.

The first step is to recognize when it is happening. This is not always easy, but very helpful. Once you recognize it, you can question it, and you will most likely realize the incident you are catastrophizing is not a sign of spiraling down into a deep, dark depression.

2. Question it.

Having thoughts you may be on the verge of getting fired? Ask yourself for the evidence of this. How was your last review? What evidence is there that your work performance is going down?

3. Communicate with others.

Share your thoughts with someone you trust to get the opinions from a third party unaffected by the situation in the same way you are.

4. Analyze it.

I’m not referring to scouring a great deal of data. Simply ask yourself if there are reasons, other than your illness, for your thoughts. If you’re concerned because you couldn’t find your parked car in a large parking lot, could it be that you’ve lost concentration because you are thinking about the upcoming meeting or presentation at work? Could it be that you were thinking of your to-do list for the day?

It is incredibly important to go easy on yourself. Remember depression is truly an illness. It compromises cognition, thoughts and memory (just to mention a few of its many possible manifestations!). Recovering from depression takes time and effort. The effort you put into eliminating catastrophizing will go a long way in your efforts towards recovery!

Follow this journey on A Mental Health Blog by Al Levin.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Matthew Dix.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Depression

Beautiful woman silhouette with a flowers, vector illustration

When I Finally Understood the True Meaning of 'Recovery'

So what is “recovery”? The word “recovery” means something different to everyone. I used to believe recovery meant I no longer had depression or anxiety, however it now means something completely different. I feel liberated now that I understand the true meaning of recovery for me. Recovery for me, signifies acknowledgement and acceptance I have [...]
black and white photo of woman and man holding hands with engagement ring on woman's ring finger

Why I Challenge the Idea That Love Can Cure Mental Illness

I enjoyed the movie “Silver Linings Playbook.” It humanized mental illness in a way that Hollywood often doesn’t do. Hollywood loves mental illness, but many movies don’t bother to capture the nuances. Most moviemakers cherry-pick dramatic, provocative manifestations of mental turmoil, all of which help fuel the stigma that “mentally ill” individuals are dangerous, scary, [...]
Woman with wind blowing through her hair

The Oscar Wilde Quote That Helped Me Combat Depression

When I became depressed, I was also anxious, stressed, sleep-deprived, eating terribly and poorly focused. It was an embodiment of the chicken/egg dilemma, as I had no way of knowing if poor sleep and a terrible diet were leading to my depressed and anxious state, or vice versa. Maybe they were all sadistic teammates, fueling [...]
harry potter fighting dementors

Thank You for Being My Patronus When the Dementors Are Coming...

Thank you for being the white light that saves me from the demons chasing me in my dreams. I know you don’t understand what these sucking demons do to me… how, they make me relive my “mistakes” and “failures” in life day in day out. That I am always scared when I can feel the [...]