Understanding our money behaviour: Catastrophising


When we engage in catastrophising, we expect disaster to strike, no matter what. It’s the classic story of irrational thoughts ‘making mountains out of molehills’, but in such a way that it becomes a pattern of thinking that controls our lives. It can be debilitating and all encompassing.

We might exaggerate the importance of relatively small or insignificant events (such forgetting once to pay a bill on time) so that they become distorted (“I’m going to end up with a terrible credit record and will never be able to get a loan”). We may use ‘what if’ questions to imagine the absolute worst occurring. When we catastrophise, we often experience high levels of anxiety that can impact our ability to act, to make decisions, and ultimately enjoy life. We may get to a point where everything seems beyond our control.

Instead of jumping from problem to disaster, pay attention to what you’re thinking and question whether the perceived disaster is realistically a probable outcome. Consider whether there are possible solutions to the problem. Part of catastrophising is the belief that we can’t deal with problems and negative situations. Having a list of solutions and identifying what can be managed or changed can be the basis for an action plan. This can shift our thinking from what is beyond our control and focus on the present moment and the steps we can take now.

Jenny Rolfe