Common Negative Thought Patterns in Teens and How to Reframe Them: Catastrophizing and Catastrophic Thinking
Parents are just as familiar with catastrophizing as their teens are. Catastrophizing thought patterns tend to include a lot of “What if’s” followed by devastating assumptions. Parents who have watched their adolescent or teen struggle with active addiction have practically lived in a world of what if. What if they don’t come home? They’ll never learn to listen to me. What if they get arrested again? They’ll never get into college. What if they fail out of school? They’ll never succeed in life. What if they overdose? They’ll never live a happy life. What if they’re engaging in unprotected sex? They’ll have to grow up too soon.
Our minds can go wild. Interestingly, teenagers aren’t “what if’ing” about the consequences of their actions like parents are, because the young developing brain is more prone to risk-taking, impulsive behavior. When teens are putting their mind to something in order to be successful, however, their catastrophic thinking is likely to appear. What if I can’t stay sober? I’ll never make it in life. What if I fail this test? I’ll never be a good student. What if I get rejected from that school? I’ll never go to college.
As parents, we learn to think realistically based on our decades of life experiences. Teenagers and adolescents are indeed wise, but still lacking in life experience. We can intervene in catastrophic thinking by asking teens how realistic their assumptions are. Is it realistic they will fail a test? Of course, it is always a possibility. However, is it realistic that one failed test will imminently doom their college career? Absolutely not. Rather than try to quickly wash away catastrophic thinking, ask teens to navigate the pathway of their thoughts. Doing so helps them realize how quickly their thinking spins out of control to unrealistic heights.
Teens who are in recovery can be perfectionism oriented, wanting to right every wrong in totality. Consequently, teens in recovery create an undue amount of pressure on themselves. Teens tend to think that everything they do in sobriety is a test, validating how much they have changed and proving they are not the same teen they were just months ago. As a result, they see every little possible failure or mistake as some sort of catastrophe. Teens must learn to embrace the recovery philosophies of “easy does it” and “one day at a time”. Each day, teens are making incredible progress, just by staying sober. Remind your teen of how far they have come just by taking it easy, taking baby steps, and taking their recovery one day at a time.
Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center offers long term residential treatment programs for addiction recovery. Our programs involve the whole family for foundation building, life cleansing change.
Call us today to start living your recovery: 662-598-4214