Recently, a lady from Solano sent me an email and asked if having bizarre thoughts about terrible things was common with severe anxiety states. I assured her that these types of thoughts were indeed common to anxiety sufferers and that the name for them is catastrophic thinking.” She had described to me that when severe anxiety states occurred with her, she would have racing thoughts, many of them having to do with the fear of losing control and hurting herself or others and sometimes the thought of even harming her own baby. This was understandably very concerning to her because, like many anxiety sufferers, she believed these violent, sadistic, and tragic type thoughts indicated that she was on the verge of losing her sanity and as actually in need of a mental health treatment facility in Solano.
Catastrophic thinking happens commonly with anxiety sufferers, and many people refer to it as “what if thinking.” Anxiety Disorder patients describe thoughts like the above ones that the young lady described, but these can also include other fearful thoughts, such as thinking you will lose control in front of other people and make a complete fool of yourself. Other patients may have thoughts of passing out and needing an ambulance but not being in a location where others will notice and call for help. Others describe thoughts of snapping and becoming violent to others around them or running down a supermarket aisle, screaming at the top of their lungs.
One of the reasons catastrophic thinking is so unpleasant, other than for the reasons already stated, is because these thoughts will increase and intensify already present anxiety conditions. Catastrophic thinking can be a trigger for panic attacks. These “what if thoughts” tend to lead from one to another until multiple fearful thoughts are all happening at once, which you could properly refer to as the snowball effect. The thoughts gain momentum and loom larger and scarier to the sufferer as they increase during anxiety states.
Why in the world are these catastrophic type thoughts so common to anxiety sufferers? According to anxiety researchers, they believe, these thoughts happen because the “fight or flight response” will kick in a mechanism, having to do with our thought processes, which will begin to scan for dangers. With anxiety disorders, there are no real dangers, and so the mind will tend to consider possibilities for why the body is reacting as it is by triggering the fight or flight response. This scanning for dangers is actually part of the protection mechanism, meant to keep us safe; however, the person experiencing them will misinterpret this as meaning they will actually act on these thoughts and fulfill them.
Let me assure you that this is not the case. The fact that the thoughts are scary to you, in itself, is proof that you do not wish to act on them. Someone who actually is considering such actions will actually take pleasure in these thoughts and contemplate them, rather than fearing them and fighting them. These thoughts are common to anxiety disorder sufferers and don’t indicate that you’re losing your sanity or actually about to snap and go out of control. The best way to overcome the fear of such thoughts is to reassure yourself of these facts.