Decatastrophizing / Decatastrophising


Decatastrophizing is a cognitive restructuring technique to reduce or challenge catastrophic thinking. The term 'decatastrophizing' was coined by Albert Ellis who developed REBT, but as a technique it is equally at home within a CBT model.

Catastrophizing involves a number of cognitive distortions:

  • overestimation of the likelihood of an event
  • overestimation of the 'awfulness' of an event
  • underestimation of our ability to cope with the event should it happen

Decatastrophizing means addressing these distortions. Questions to ask might include: "Realistically, what is the worst that could happen?" and "How would I cope if the worst did happen?". This worksheet can be used to guide a client through this decatastrophizing process. In time clients can be guided to lead themselves through this process in anxiety-provoking situations.

Decatastrophizing / Decatastrophising

Key references

  • Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and Emotion In Psychotherapy. New York: Lyle Stuart
  • Whalley, M. G. (2015). Self-help tools for panic. Psychology Tools