How illusions and negative thinking can lead you to chronic pain

 Imagine that you have applied for a job of your choice and now you have been selected for the second round of interviews. Are you happy with your success so far and ready for a new challenge?


Or you've already started imagining rejection and agonizing over what will happen to your self-esteem.

Or perhaps when you don't get a reply from your friend right away, you start thinking that you may have offended the person without thinking that the other person might be busy with something else. What is it.

Perhaps a geopolitical issue has also troubled you. You spend hours every night thinking about nuclear war or another dangerous epidemic or economic recession.

This thinking of yours can be destructive for you and your loved ones.

If you experience similar symptoms in yourself, you are catastrophizing, which is actually a mental habit in which you overestimate the likelihood of something bad happening. They fear the negative consequences of the situation.

Dr. Patrick Keelan is a neuroscientist and licensed therapist in the province of Alberta, Canada. He explains the term 'catastrophizing' and says that it is the habit of suddenly thinking negatively about something, which emotionally puts a person in a state that becomes difficult to cope with.

Research on catastrophizing has shown that it can pose serious mental health risks, increase feelings of stress, and lead to chronic pain.

He says that catastrophizing can occur at any time in our lives, but the never-ending fears of Corona and the accompanying economic and political uncertainty can certainly increase its intensity.

Experts believe that catastrophizing poses a greater risk of mental illness.

Sigmund Freud and other psychiatrists in the first half of the 20th century had primitive means of treating mental disorders. It was meant to bring out hidden or suppressed fears and desires.

Psychologically, such problems are caused by childhood events or are sexual in nature.

In the mid-century, psychotherapists such as K. Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck began to think of alternative ways to help people overcome depression. It targets their wrong or bad thoughts because they can cause them mental stress.

From the beginning catastrophizing was considered a potentially important mental problem, and Beck discussed its possible role in phobias.

For example, someone who has a fear of flying may mistake the slightest rattle in the plane's cabin as a sign of a technical malfunction. If they were not so catastrophizing, they would also see that the flight crew was acting normally, but in this situation one would think that the crew was not paying attention and if the rattling continued, they would think that How horribly they can die.

Research shows that catastrophic thinking is a serious cause of other anxiety-related problems. For example, a perfectionist in the workplace who is not convinced to let go of even the slightest mistake in work, if he has a tendency to catastrophize, may become extremely anxious about even the smallest mistake.

"For example, they may have catastrophizing thoughts such as 'I'm going to get fired' and 'If I get fired, I won't be able to handle things,'" says Kellen.

At one point or another, their fears reach such a level that they cannot even do their jobs properly. Someone who is anxious about their health, if they suffer from catastrophizing, may mistake even the slightest change in their body as a sign of cancer.

In some cases, people start to consider the sensations in the body due to anxiety to be extremely dangerous. If they are worried about giving a presentation, for example, they may consider a rapid heartbeat as a warning sign of a heart attack. The result is such a succession of negative thoughts that the person suffers a complete panic and anxiety attack.

Barnabas Ost is a psychologist in Freiburg, Germany, who co-authored a book on the assessment of such negative thinking in panic disorder.

"Anxiety and fear are misinterpreted in the human body, making it more likely that a person will make a negative assessment of any situation," he says.

Research over the years has shown that negative thinking can lead to a number of mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Negative thinking is not only a mental state, but it can also increase physical pain. In such a case, a person may wonder how long he will have to suffer, as it will never end. A person may think that a severe headache means he has brain cancer.

Various experiments have shown that such thinking increases the pain signals in the brain, which causes the pain to increase in intensity and duration.

Beth Darnell of Stanford University and Luana Coloca of the University of Maryland wrote in a recent joint research paper that "a negative mindset is like taking a can of fuel and pouring it on a burning fire."

Emotional Epidemic

Why are some people more affected by such negative thinking? There may be several factors behind this.

One of the reasons may be genetic. We may have learned our way of thinking from our family. If you have always seen your parents draw the worst possible conclusion in every situation, you will naturally do the same.

Our environment and experiences also play a role. Even small problems can lead to negative thinking due to feelings of stress and insecurity.

If you find that your thinking has become negative over the past year or two, this may not be a coincidence. There is evidence that world events can also increase negative thinking.

Sometimes a person starts to think negatively about the events happening in the world, such as the war in Ukraine, the fears of another new type of Corona or the collapse of the economy.

Sometimes the news of destruction and destruction adds a layer of anxiety to one's thinking in which one becomes more concerned about one's own personal problems, no matter how far removed they are from the political and geographical affairs of the world. .

In a study conducted at the University of Sussex in the UK, participants were asked to rate the world's news according to their feelings about whether it was positive or negative, pleasant or unpleasant, satisfying or arousing. These 30-person groups were then shown specific news clips.

Before and after watching the clip, the subjects completed a questionnaire in which they answered three major problems in their lives. Finally, these individuals also participated in an interview in which a problem was discussed with them.

As expected, participants who saw negative news were more anxious. Importantly, when discussing their personal problems, these individuals were also more negative than those who were shown positive or neutral news.

It was a small group study, but subsequent experiments confirmed that news is closely related to our moods, with the ability to shift our thinking down a negative or dark path.

How to break the circle

No matter what the cause of negative thinking, it is possible to get out of it, says Kellan, a behavioral psychologist.

But awareness is the main thing for him. The first step is to stop your thinking and identify that the mind is going into a psychological black hole. For example, you are nervous about an interview. The next thought that comes to your mind is that I will fail in this but you can definitely ask questions based on that thought.

What are the reasons for this thinking? And can you draw any other conclusion in the light of the evidence before you?

If you talk to someone who is dispassionate about the situation, you might learn that failure is a possibility but not a certainty and you can take steps that can help you perform better.

You should avoid the general mindset of overthinking something like I'm a failure and I'll never get a job. In this situation you may also think that everyone gives bad interviews and that does not mean that everyone is a failure.

And if you fail that interview, you can learn from that experience to improve your performance for the next opportunity.

Let's take another example. Suppose you are afraid of getting infected with Corona and this thought is always in your head.

On the one hand, recognizing the dangers of the Corona epidemic is a logical thing, but as soon as you suffer from a sore throat, you think that you have contracted the Corona epidemic and then you think about how to deal with it. They become restless.

In such a situation, you can explain to yourself to put this thought away until the symptoms of the disease appear, because sore throat is not necessarily corona. You can remind yourself that you've had vaccinations that won't make your symptoms worse, and you can also think about ways to help you recover if you do get sick. are

The goal in every situation is to take a balanced view based on evidence. This helps a person with negative thoughts to reduce the intensity of anxiety, says Kellen.

But it is not easy to adapt your thinking in this way. It will be a difficult process in the beginning but it can be made easier by going through the process repeatedly.

You can also keep a count of how many times you assumed the worst but it didn't actually happen. This way you will know how negative thinking or catastrophizing creates unnecessary problems.

Just doing this will help you combat negative thinking the next time. Remember that disaster is not waiting for you on every corner of the street.

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