Catastrophizing Alternatives for Emotionally Sensitive People

A common trait in those of us diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (and those diagnosed with a number of anxiety disorders as well, for that matter) is a tendency to jump to the worst possible scenario when a problem arises.

We then often spend our time stressing and freaking out over the worst possible scenario that we can imagine as an outcome to our current problem or suffering, rather than dealing in this moment with the actual reality of what is happening now.

This is called catastrophizing.

Here are some examples:

  • Your boss is in a bad mood, so you jump to the conclusion that he must hate you, and you’re going to be fired.
  • You have a cold, and you think you’ll never get better.
  • You think that if you express how you really feel, the person will completely abandon you.
  • One thing goes wrong, and you’re afraid everything in your life will then fall apart and you’ll lose everything.
Fortunately, rarely in life is anything so clear cut, black or white, or all or nothing. There is a spectrum of possibilities – lots of shares of grey.
In BPD, we tend to, at least initially, see the two extremes on the spectrum. It may take some coaching and practice to begin to be mindful that there are other possibilities and options when we perceive things this way.
When we do begin to practice this reality, we can experience a sense of calm in knowing that the world is a little bit more flexible than we once thought.  We can realize that we are not stuck with only two polarizing options (dialectics). This can be a real relief.
Marsha Linehan, the founder of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), once spoke about a patient she had that suffered from chronic pain. The patient called Dr. Linehan and said that she thought the pain would go on forever and that she’d always be suffering.
Dr. Linehan suggested to the patient that she had enough suffering to deal with right now – in this very moment – why should she project herself into the future, which isn’t even here yet, and suffer for that time, too?
Some DBT skills that can help with staying in this moment include:
Are there some areas in your life that you may be perceiving in a All or Nothing or Black or White terms? Is it possible to find some shades of grey? How might doing so reduce your suffering in the now?
Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

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