Are Dentists Programmed to Catastrophize?

inner voice self-awareness Apr 23, 2021


We Are Our Thoughts

Do we think the worst because we are consistently trying to put out fires? De-escalate situations? Actively listen to patient’s and staff complaints? Or discuss risks and complications that we are automatically, innately and unconsciously programming ourselves to catatrophize our own procedures or even our personal life’s thoughts? Is this why we lean towards negative thinking patterns?

Cue: mind being blown.

The way we choose to think on a daily basis impacts how we view situations and how we feel . . . which ultimately drives our actions. Out thoughts allow us to feel whether it is joy, excitement, compassion or even anger, sadness and grief. Here’s the thing: if we are constantly and consistently thinking negatively or the worst case scenario, then how we perceive the world will be negative as well.



It’s when you assume the worst will happen. It is a form of unhelpful thinking also known as cognitive distortions. It is a form of anxiety. I can be a catastrophizer and it is something I didn’t even realize I was doing. I thought I was always just ‘planning for the worst and hoping for the best,’ even in my day-to-day life.

The problem: consistently thinking the worst because when and if the worst happens, we assume that the worst will ALWAYS happen. And that, is just not true. Thus, it’s NOT the catastrophic thought itself but how much we ruminate on it or think that it will continue to happen in the future.

Not every extraction will be the worst extraction. Not every conversation will be the worst conversation. Not every difficult margin will be the worst margin. Not every trip planned will have something go wrong. Not all turbulence means an imminent plane crash. Not every C+ means you’ve failed at school. Not every interaction with your boss will lead to you being fired.


Reframing Your Thoughts

We can’t change the risks and complications that come with dental procedures but we can change how we choose to view them and how we consciously choose one thought from another in our every day life.


Tip of the day: Notice, identify and rephrase your thoughts. For example, instead of saying, “I’m going to get fired,” notice and identify, then CHOOSE to rephrase it, “I took longer than anticipated and this is frustrating because I ran behind.”


Yours truly,


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