Experiencing chronic symptoms, especially GI symptoms for months or years can negatively impact our thinking and attitude. Over time, even the most optimistic person may develop behaviors related to their symptoms that actually worsen their symptoms. Two types of thinking in particular can be quite debilitating for the average IBS patient.
- Catastrophizing: Tendency to believe that something is worse than reality, dwelling on the worst aspects of a situation and feeling helpless over the situation. Catastrophizing is an irrational thought a lot of us have in believing that something is far worse than it actually is. Catastrophizing can take two different forms: making a catastrophe out of a current situation, and imagining making a catastrophe out of a future situation.
For example, “My abdominal bloating is the worst. It ruins everything!” or “I am sure I will have a flare up today!”
Think positive! Dwelling on negative effects of a symptom will reinforce negative sentiments. Instead, consider the many things you have still been able to do and enjoy, even when not at your best. The first step to dealing with catastrophizing is to recognize when you’re doing it. The sooner you start tracking this, the quicker you’ll be able to start focusing on stopping it.
- Assuming the Worst: Tendency to assume the future is bleak or that we know what others are thinking. Always assuming the worst case scenario will likely inflate the impact of symptoms, and increase stress levels.
For example, “I am sure everyone knows I just passed gas! This is so embarrassing. Can’t imagine what they think of me.”
Think positive! Assuming the worst increases stress levels, which can worsen GI symptoms, creating a vicious cycle. Try your best not to make assumptions about what other people are thinking. Easier said than done but it can become second nature with time, patience and practice.