Catastrophizing in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Catastrophization is similar to pessimism. Stephan Zabel/Getty Images

Definition:

Catastrophizing, in medical usage, is a type of irrational thought that something is (or will be) far worse than it is. People with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are sometimes viewed as catastrophizing about their symptoms and their health in general.

Evidence from early 2015 suggests that, in fibromyalgia, an excessive focus on pain may be due to physiological features instead of psychological ones.

It's possible that some opinions toward catastrophizing in these illnesses are influenced by the misperception that they're less serious or severe than they are. However, none of that rules out the possibility that some people may be catastrophizing about their illness and are being harmed by it.

Essentially, catastrophizing is giving something a negative spin when that spin may not be accurate or appropriate. Because catastrophizers believe a negative outcome is a foregone conclusion, they may not take the steps toward a better outcome.

For example, I knew an art major back in college who would make a single mistake on a piece of art, become certain she could never do it right and she was going to flunk out of school, and would then destroy the project and get a failing grade. She then used the F to justify her feelings of inadequacy.

Behaving this way in regards to illness can cause people to miss opportunities to improve their health and continue negative cycles that are harmful to them.

Meanwhile, an optimistic outlook is shown to be beneficial to your health. See: Optimism & Other Coping Skills for Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

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