Have you ever felt a sudden feeling of absolute dread? Then you might be suffering from catastrophe crises.

Often, the Catastrophizing attacks are confused with panic attacks, a now familiar term. Panic attack is now so well-known that it has entered our everyday vocabulary, to the extent that it is used to describe almost any small or large moment of intense stress. The term “catastrophe crises”, on the other hand, is now becoming known. The phenomenon, however, is not new.

Nevertheless, the two aspects differ. Dr. Glenn Patrick Doyle he says characteristically in a post on X: “We talk a lot about panic attacks, but those who have experienced trauma often experience what I call ‘catastrophizing attacks’, that is, sudden bursts of overwhelming certainty that the worst is going to happen to them and that they cannot they do anything to prevent it.” People suffering from these types of crises are constantly planning escape routes and plans for every possible catastrophic scenario they can imagine as they are tormented by the idea that what they have and love will disappear.

“This is a phenomenon better known as catastrophizing, a pattern of thinking that leads people to believe or worry about the worst-case scenario or feel an impending sense of doom.”explains female empowerment expert Grace McMahon.

Dr. Kalanit Ben-Ari adds: “One could talk about two different responses to fear and anxiety: One is paralysis and the other is catastrophizing. The first may be a reaction to stress and trauma or a defense mechanism in an acute stress disorder. Catastrophism, on the other hand, involves anxiety that colors our reality with a dramatic and pessimistic tone. Both can occur when someone feels powerless and hopeless.”

“The feeling of an impending sense of doom is experienced differently, so it can be a challenge to recognize it”says McMahon. “Some describe a catastrophizing attack as a sinking feeling in the stomach or a tightness in the chest, or just an overwhelming feeling that something bad is going to happen.”says McMahon. “Generally, it is recognized as an intense feeling of fear, which can be combined with physical symptoms of anxiety. Essentially, however, it’s about the mind-body connection, which is trying to tell you something – as it happens with every emotion.”

Why are some people more prone to catastrophizing?

“When we have experienced a trauma, the brain remembers it and tries to protect us. It also acts as a mechanism that tries to explain unknown or uncertain situations. But it can happen even suddenly: When we are not in any danger, we may fear that everything will go wrong, have a sense of impending doom, or worry that everything will fall apart, because the brain is trying to keep us safe.”, says McMahon. And while the brain does its job, “the person who experiences the effect probably feels deep discomfort and fear and this is enough to stop any normal action and behavior in everyday life”, he adds.

“Our defensive response to pain is a complex and multi-layered psychological response, rooted in early attachment style, childhood experiences, past trauma, historical family trauma, and our own genetics and temperament. It’s a combination of nature, nurture and adaptation.”McMahon further explains.

How do catastrophizing attacks differ from panic attacks?

“According to the definition given by Dr. Glenn Patrick Doyle on catastrophizing crises, the sense of impending doom combined with physical symptoms of stress, such as rapid heart rate, sweating, or shortness of breath”says McMahon.

“These symptoms are similar to what happens in a panic attack, except they are likely to pass more quickly. During a panic attack, a person can feel so overwhelmed that they actually feel like they are dying. Symptoms can be so intense that people are unable to feel that they will pass. In contrast, a catastrophizing attack is associated with thoughts, feelings, and sensations that something bad is about to happen, which can leave someone with similar but more short-term symptoms or a feeling of being stuck or paralyzed. This feeling will fade more easily than a panic attack.”he explains.

She adds that while this feeling can be a harbinger of an anxiety or panic attack, “it could escalate further or even be a sign of an emergency, so it should be taken seriously.”

How can we best combat feelings of dread?

“There are no magic wands here,” explains Dr. Ben-Ari, “that’s why it’s good to see a therapist who specializes in trauma management. Some may find a way to express their inner pain through art, creativity, mindfulness or journaling, aiming to regulate their emotions. However, for deeper transformation of inner unconscious beliefs and messages, therapy is recommended”he adds.

What to do if you are experiencing catastrophizing crises

It is, initially, important to identify the root cause of these feelings. Certainly, seeking professional help will greatly assist in this endeavor. McMahon adds that “it could be linked to a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s important to seek help and understand what’s causing the symptoms you’re experiencing in order to manage them effectively.”