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How Computer Programming Helps Me Stop Catastrophizing

I am, for the most part, a rational person. But I also have an anxiety disorder, and with that comes certain thought patterns that are anything but rational. One of these is called catastrophizing, defined below by Psychology Today:

I have catastrophized for my whole life. When I was in middle school, if my mom was late to come home from work, I assumed she had perished in a horrific, fiery car crash. When I was in graduate school, I was afraid of missing a day of work, because I was certain if I didn’t work for a day, then I wouldn’t work for a week, then a month, and before I knew it, I’d be kicked out of my doctorate program and forced to sell ice cream on a street corner in Union Square. When I was hired as a faculty member, I was terrified of teaching, because I thought one bad class would lead to a bad set of course reviews, which would result in not getting tenure, which would result in me losing my job and my apartment, and then I’d be homeless and on the street. I could give you many more examples.

Reason has no place in catastrophizing. I didn’t stop to consider, for example, that maybe my mom was late getting home because traffic was bad. Nor did I stop to consider most students don’t pay enough attention for one bad class to have any impact on their course evaluations.

In 2020, my grandfather was exposed to COVID-19 during an unrelated surgery at a hospital in the Atlanta area. It took multiple phone calls to get the full story out of the hospital staff, but basically, somebody temporarily left him in a room with someone else who had tested positive for the virus. Upon hearing this news, my brain got to work thinking of the horrible things that could happen next.

“What if he gets COVID?” I thought to myself,

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