The Catastrophic misinterpretation diagram shows how Suzanne, in our case study, mistakes the symptoms of anxiety (feeling dizzy, hot, wobbly and light-headed) as signs that she might be about to faint, making her even more anxious.

Experiencing fearful thoughts ‘I’m going to faint in the supermarket in front of all these people’ triggers the symptoms of anxiety including:

  • fast-beating heart
  • dizziness
  • light-headedness
  • dry throat
  • hot flushes
  • sweating
  • feeling wobbly and shaking
  • breathing much faster

Suzanne mistakes these physical symptoms as evidence that something bad really is happening ‘I’m feeling dizzy, hot and light-headed. I really am going to faint.’ This is known as catastrophic misinterpretation.