Decatastrophizing Pain


Decatastrophizing is learning how to stop imagining the worst possible outcome of an event. The key, I guess, is to remember that if the worse could happen it is logical to think that the best could happen too.

I say guess, because I caught myself experiencing the act of catastrophizing. My car was stalling three or four times a journey, after 3 different visits to the garage – and a hefty bill – they were unable to find the cure. My thoughts were racing through how my little car was probably going to die on me, not restart and end up in the scrap yard. That is when I re-read an article on this blog called ‘The A’s and D’s of pain management‘ and I realised what I was doing. I changed my thinking around to what the best scenario could be, which actually was not too far away from the final result of a broken clutch sensor.

Catastrophizing can have a very stressful effect on our lives, particularity when linked to pain. This is why Michael J. L. Sullivan, Scott R. Bishop and Jayne Pivik developed a 13-item self-report scale called The pain catastrophizing scale. Each of the 13 items can be rated from 0 – 4 with zero being not all at all and four equaling all the time. The scale is broken down in to 3 sections to help focus on what areas to work on and they are Magnification (M), Rumination (R), and Helplessness (H).

Pain catastrophizing scale

  • I worry all the time about whether the pain will end. (H)
  • I feel I can’t go on. (H)
  • It’s terrible and I think it’s never going to get any better. (H)
  • It’s awful and I feel that it overwhelms me. (H)
  • I feel I can’t stand it anymore. (H)
  • I become afraid that the pain may get worse. (M)
  • I think of other painful experiences. (M)
  • I anxiously want the pain to go away. (R)
  • I can’t seem to keep it out of my mind. (R)
  • I keep thinking about how much it hurts. (R)
  • I keep thinking about how badly I want the pain to stop. (R)
  • There is nothing I can do to reduce the intensity of the pain. (H)
  • I wonder whether something serious may happen. (M)

Source – Wikipedia

If we reverse the above 13 points we get the answers to how we can think to be positive and further reduce any pain we may be having. Like I said at the beginning we can think the worst or we can think the best for any situation just as Paul Arden suggests in his book ‘Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite‘;

This is the great think about being human is that we really do have the power to change something that is not working for us. If it is really bad for us we can flip it on its head and do something that is really good for us. So lets start with reversing the Pain catastrophizing scale.

  1. I trust in a time when I can fully manage the pain or it will end.
  2. I feel I can go on by learning new life lessons.
  3. I am grateful for the new lessons I have learnt and how I can be more caring to myself and others in pain.
  4. It’s great that I continue to learn so many new coping strategies.
  5. I feel I can cope by understanding moments pass and the levels of intensity change.
  6. I become optimistic that the pain will reduce.
  7. I think of as many peaceful experiences as I can.
  8. I accept the pain in this moment and know the sensation will change in someway for the better.
  9. I can seem to distract myself with wonderful meditations and visualisations.
  10. I keep thinking about how much I am improving each day.
  11. I notice the sensation of the pain and know that, like every feeling, it too shall pass.
  12. There are many techniques I can use to reduce the intensity of the pain.
  13. I wonder what is the best that will happen.

There is a saying which I really love which goes something like this:

It doesn’t matter how thin you slice it, it will always have two sides.

With this in mind will can flip any negative thoughts in to positive ones, it may take effort, awareness and intention but the positive outcomes must surly make it worth it.

Please comment below, I love hearing your views, perspectives and outcomes.

Take care and best wishes,

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