I mentioned the other day about how I have a tendency to catastrophise in almost any situation. This is just one of lots of different types of disordered thinking, that can help your anxiety or depression to grow. Our brains and bodies react in the same fight or flight way to a perceived threat (thinking that something bad will happen) as they do to a real threat (angry bear chasing you). Disordered thinking means the threat is created in the mind because of the way you’re thinking and then reinforced by the physical feelings of panic or anxiety. Learning to recognise when your thinking is faulty can play a huge part in breaking the cycle and being well.
My personal favourite, catastrophising means a small and probably insignificant event can be blown up in the mind to become an inevitable and massive disaster. You notice a tap is dripping, give your brain an hour to work on it and you’ll be worried about the cost of replacing the carpets when the plumbing gives up entirely and the house unavoidably floods.
“Fortune telling” Is when you are certain you know what is going to happen. And since you’re an anxious or depressed person it’s never good! Think of all the disasters you knew with absolute certainty were about to happen, if you can remember. Did any of them happen? Most of us have bad things happen at some point but did you predict them? Any of the imaginary conversations you planned take place? Thought not! I try to remind myself of this when I start this type of thinking.
We can also have a go at mind reading! When you are so sure you know what that another person is thinking. Your friend ignored you in the street because she’d be embarrassed to be seen with you while you’re wearing those leggings. Or in the real world it’s because she’s not wearing her glasses and didn’t see you or she’s distracted and didn’t see you or thought you were ignoring her! Or a hundred other reasons of her own that you won’t guess because you are not actually Derren Brown. Oh and the leggings look fine by the way; you should know because you checked your bum was fully covered by your cardigan dozens of times before you left the house.
You do have good things happen but you still can’t focus on the positive stuff. The psychologists call this filtering. You might decide the good things happened for bad reasons, for an example if your boss compliments you and you decide they’re just being nice because they’re going to dump extra work on you (with no evidence to suggest this is the case). Or you have a day where you make a card which looks good, cook a really nice dinner from a new recipe, have a good time with a friend and get all the shopping done. All you concentrate on is that you broke a glass when you washed up! All or nothing thinking; if it’s not perfect it’s a disaster! That nice dinner you cooked could have done with a bit more chilli so in your head it wasn’t nice, it was a failure.
This can be because of self imposed “rules” that we give ourselves. We have an idea of how things should be. We compare ourselves to other people, or Instagram pictures of perfect lives. We “know” how things should be done and feel guilty and lacking when we can’t live up to our own standard. I feel that I should spend more time with the dogs so when I went out the other day, to Aldi, Sainsbury’s and the chicken food shop. I felt guilty for not being at home. These were essential trips that definitely weren’t done for larks but I still felt bad.
Personalisation is where it’s all about me, me, me because it’s all my fault. Wanda the hen is being picked on, she’s missing feathers at the base of her tail. It’s my fault I’ve not stopped it, I should be watching them more, I should let them out of the house earlier so she can put some space between her and the bully. I should be able to stop this.
We can also overgeneralise. Being depressed or anxious this is nearly always on the negative side. You feel ill and go to see a GP who turns out to be unhelpful. You come home and decide “it’s always a waste of time going to the doctor”. Or you make one mistake and think “I always screw things up”. When we think like this we can end up labelling ourselves (and other people) . I made that mistake so, “I’m stupid”, you look in the mirror, you’ve a spot and you look a bit tired, “I’m hideous”. Oddly enough this does nothing to make you feel better!
Emotional reasoning is when you let this thinking change your behaviour. You’ve decided that you’re hideous, so you hide indoors and avoid people or dress and act to not be noticed (could be why your mate didn’t spot you in the street that time!). You’ve now got a spot and dark circles and are dressed in grey baggy clothes that do nothing for your looks and you feel even more ugly. This is called a self fulfilling prophecy, It’s not likely to be good for you! Your feelings thoughts and behaviour are so closely linked that if you can change one you can change all the others. If you stop yourself automatically believing the negative things you’re thinking and behave accordingly you can change how you feel. Which has got to be worth a try.