Decatastrophizing and "What If" Questions

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Joined: 27 Oct 2011
Gender: Female
Posts: 3,666

24 Mar 2013, 5:43 pm

I was wandering the Internet as I am apt to do, and found information on decatastrophizing, which is evidently a part of cognitive therapy and used to deal with anxiety.

Some of you already know that my son always has a slew of OCDish "What if" questions relating to some possible (and sometimes impossible, or implausible) bad occurrence. Is he essentially trying to get me to help him perform his own cognitive therapy? Does that mean that as long as I am guiding him the right way, that this might help him, and somehow his brain knows this is what he needs?

I have been on the fence about answering the questions vs trying to get him to stop ruminating on negative thoughts. I have been doing a hybrid thing, where I entertain some of the questions and then if it goes on too long, attempting to distract him by telling him it is a garbage thought. I am wondering now if I should be more indulgent of it. I am still worried about my son's ruminating tendencies.

Does anyone know anything about decatastrophizing and a more specific way of knowing how to incorporate it without encouraging rumination?


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Joined: 3 Jul 2012
Age: 53
Gender: Female
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Location: USA

24 Mar 2013, 5:57 pm

There was a period in which I limited both of my kids questions to 5 on one topic. Complete with a countdown "OK. 2 more questions left." "Only one more question left." It worked with them, but they were not overly anxious, so I don't know if it will help you or not.

Mom to 2 exceptional atypical kids
Long BAP lineage


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Joined: 26 Jul 2010
Gender: Female
Posts: 3,772

25 Mar 2013, 12:17 pm

I wish I had good answers for you on this one - and, actually, thank you for the word "decatastrophizing" as we need it, too!

I do know that the times I've tried something like this with DS, first of all I am amazed at how his imagination can come up with incredibly complicated and detailed - and realistic - worst-case scenarios. We sometimes reach a point where I'm stuck, and he wins - that really sucks. I think for this sort of thing to work, they need to be at a developmental level where they are capable of being extremely rational about something, and understand that a 1% chance of something really means it isn't going to happen - and DS isn't there yet.

The other thing is that DS is capable of perseverating on something that he knows is irrational, in which case this technique wouldn't work.

I think this tool will come in handy some day. In our case, I think DS isn't there yet and we still need to talk about "garbage thoughts" and it being about a brain glitch and not about a real fear. At some point, we will find the right professional help for this issue and I'll have something more constructive to add.