What Is Catastrophic Thinking?

Catastrophic thinking refers to viewing upsetting situations as atrocious. What appears to the outside observer to be a trivial problem is viewed as a horrendous, insurmountable problem to the Asperger’s Disorder child. Because they see things in only shades of black and white, they cannot judge the severity of a problem. Things are either good or really bad—with nothing in between. When something goes wrong, the Asperger’s Disorder child often views it as devastating.

Asperger’s Disorder children engage in a lot of catastrophic thinking. Not only do they react to truly upsetting situations with intense distress, they have the same reaction to minor irritations that most children would not even notice. They catastrophize how bad things are and hold the belief that it will forever be awful. From this thought pattern comes intense emotions of anger, frustration, and sadness.

We expect toddlers to have intense reactions when things upset them because they cannot yet put the event into a bigger perspective. They also cannot think about the near future and understand that there is probably a quick solution to the problem. Asperger’s Disorder children have this same type of thinking pattern. Events are blown out of proportion, and they get stuck in this catastrophic thinking.

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