Robert F. Mullen, PhD
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The distinction between social anxiety disorder and social anxiety is a matter of severity; reference to one includes the other. The recovery tools and techniques provided are applicable to most emotional malfunctions including depression, substance abuse, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and issues of self-esteem and motivation. These malfunctions originate homogeneously, their trajectories differentiated by environment, experience, and the diversity of human thought and behavior.
“Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the
pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI—deliberate,
repetitive, neural information.” — WeVoice (Madrid, Málaga)
Cognitive Distortion #11
Chicken Little was plucking worms in the henyard when an acorn dropped from a tree onto her head. She had no idea what hit her and assumed the worst. The sky is falling, the sky is falling, she clucked hysterically. Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion that compels us to conclude the worst-case scenario when things happen to us, rather than consider plausible explanations. It is the irrational assumption that something is or will be far worse than reasonably probable. We prophesize the worst and twist reality to support our projection. If our significant other complains of a headache, we assume the relationship is doomed. When this happens again, our belief is confirmed. Moreover, not only did we project the outcome, but it is likely we were a party to it.
A symptom of SAD is our tendency to expect negative consequences to things that happen during a situation. Because of our life-consistent negative self-appraisal, and the inherent human negativity bias, we tend to assume the worst. We often justify our catastrophizing based on prior events, misrepresenting the outcome of both situations.
Similar Cognitive Distortions
This is strikingly similar to other cognitive distortions. Overgeneralization prompts us to assume one bad apple renders the entire bushel rotten. When we Filter, we ignore the suggestion of a positive outcome in favor of a disastrous one. Our four horsemen of social anxiety disorder – helplessness, hopelessness, undesirability, and unworthiness aggravate our negative assumptions.
Catastrophizing is often a consequence of our symptomatic fears of criticism, ridicule, and rejection. We create self-fulfilling prophecies to justify our irrational assumptions. We will be rejected and therefore, never find love. We will be criticized and, therefore, never be taken seriously.
Space is Limited
Catastrophizing is paralyzing. It limits our interactivity and social engagement because we avoid situations that posit the possibility of disaster. Our fatalistic obsessions prevent us from experiencing and enjoying life. It limits our ability to establish, develop, and maintain healthy relationships. We self-project our failures through our SAD-induced automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). “What if no one talks to me?” “What if they criticize my presentation?” “What if they find me unattractive?” Worrying about something that hasn’t happened is an exercise in futility and supports our sense of hopelessness. It negatively impacts our entire outlook in life, causing issues of motivation and self-esteem that lead to self-disappointment and underachievement.
Considering the consequences of what can happen is a regular and rational part of determining our actions and activities. The compulsion to project the worst possible scenarios, no matter how improbable, is self-destructive.
When those of us experiencing social anxiety disorder find ourselves in a situation where we dread negative feedback, the smallest incident, like a failed attempt at humor, can convince us the entire evening is a personal disaster. This projection is likely a self-fulfilling prophecy because we strongly anticipated the outcome.
Again, the obvious remedy is to become mindful of our susceptibility to this distortion, rationally assess the situation, and consider plausible explanations (rational responses) for the incident that triggered our catastrophizing.
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