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Catastrophizing: A Habit of Mine

Some call it "worst-case planning."

My boss calls me "Dr. Doom" for my COVID forecasts of continued pestilence and emphasis on the subject. And almost all emergency managers believe in "worst case" planning, the idea being that if you plan for the worst case, then you will be ready for any disaster that is of a lesser level.

I hadn't heard of the term "catastrophizing" until I did a podcast with a sociologist, out this week: Disaster Zone: Behavioral Impacts of Climate Change

Here's a definition: "Catastrophizing is when someone assumes that the worst will happen. Often, it involves believing that you're in a worse situation than you really are or exaggerating the difficulties you face. For example, someone might worry that they'll fail an exam."

Does this mean that we emergency managers are all "maladjusted" in some way? A little bit different topic, but similar in nature was when my boss asked, me, "Eric, why do you always have to talk about security?" Well, as I told him then, "I am the director of security for the port!"

Emergencies and disasters are our business. We get paid to contemplate the worst and plan and work to make it not as bad as it can likely become.

I guess I just did not recognize my "catastrophizing" until I was made aware of it. Which leads me to "doomscrolling," another term I was not familiar with. Doomscrolling, which maybe I've partaken in.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.