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“I suppose I’ve always done it. I remember when I was a child, I would worry an awful lot about the smallest of things. I remember finding a loose thread on my favourite teddy bear and how I convinced myself that the whole toy was going to fall apart. I was inconsolable until my mother double-stitched the whole thing!

"As a teenager, I would look at the amount of hair that came out when I brushed my hair and was certain that I was going bald. I spent huge amounts of time on the internet looking at articles about alopecia and exploring the different types of wigs that were available. Of course, I didn’t lose my hair but I did lose many night’s sleep in worrying about it.

"In my adult life, this habit of blowing my worries all out of proportion has been most noticeable with regards to my work. I know it’s unhealthy to take your work home with you, but even if I leave the paperwork at the office, I can’t stop my mind from dwelling on the events of the day. I find myself taking fairly innocuous situations and turning them into complete disasters. I might be struggling to get a report written but I convince myself that I’ll never get it finished or, worse yet, I finish it and it is so awful that my boss fires me on the spot.

I’ve always kept these worrying thoughts to myself. I haven’t even told my partner or closest friends about them. When I started seeing my therapist, it took me a few sessions to pluck up the courage to tell him about them. I thought he’d think I was really crazy or not know what to do with me. Ironically, I was doing the same thing there - expecting the worst possible outcome to a given situation… making mountains out of molehills.

"Imagine my relief when I finally did share these thoughts and learn that they are very common!  My therapist explained that it’s called “catastrophic thinking” or “catastrophising”. We spent several sessions exploring my thought processes and attempting to challenge these negative expectations with balanced thoughts. If I was worried about being late to a meeting because of a traffic jam, I was encouraged to think of all the times when people had not been bothered in the slightest by me being a few minutes late, or how my own boss is frequently late for meetings.

"I’ve also learned some really good techniques to help me relax and ground me in reality and not the dreadful “what-if” situations I conjure in my mind. It’s still early days but I am already noticing the difference in how I respond to things. I don’t feel I lurch from catastrophic thought to catastrophic thought any more. I feel calmer and happier. Most important, I now feel I have control of my thoughts rather than allowing them to control me.”


Taigh Sàmhchair: professional counselling and psychotherapy

Hereward Proops MBACP, registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

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01851 871094 / 07815662208