Irrational beliefs about yourself, others and life in general manifest as absolute “musts” and “shoulds” that can lead to catastrophizing.
Catastrophizing occurs when you evaluate a potential experience with exaggerated negativity, which can lead you to predict negative outcomes. The act of catastrophizing can stem from a strong underlying belief that events or circumstances should be different or that other people should think and behave differently. Pain-related catastrophizing is an exaggerated negative belief about an experienced or anticipated painful stimulus. It has three identifying characteristics:
– excessive rumination about pain;
– magnification of the awfulness of pain; and
– helplessness in the face of pain.
Catastrophizing can lead to elevated perceptions of pain, cardiovascular reactivity (increase in blood pressure and/or heart rate), and an increased reporting of pain intensity, pain sensitivity, and disability. This, in turn, can lead to an increase in pain behaviors (such as limping, rubbing, groaning), resting periods, requests for assistance, and reduction in activities of daily living — all to avoid pain. It is a vicious cycle in which your pain leads to negative beliefs and these negative beliefs exacerbate the pain.