Pessimism is a tendency to assume the negative in a situation. Pessimistic people believe that adverse events are inevitable. They might struggle to have hope for the future or be naturally skeptical of others, believing people have malicious intentions.
A pessimist may believe events will turn out badly regardless of the starting circumstances. Below are articles about what causes pessimism and how to challenge these thoughts. Within, you may learn the types of negative thinking patterns, why they occur, and how to prevent them by using positive coping techniques. Pessimism isn't a permanent mindset, and it can often be changed with education, willingness, and support.
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Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Pessimism is an outlook of anticipating the worst in a situation. A pessimist can be someone who focuses on an undesirable outcome and catastrophizes. They may be convinced something terrible will happen to them and prepare for the worst-case scenario to avoid disappointment.
In some cases, pessimistic people may not be intentionally negative, genuinely believing in their thoughts. Their beliefs about the world may stem from fear or negative experiences. A pessimist is the opposite of an optimist, who may assume the best in situations and seek positive outcomes. Some pessimism may not be unhealthy, but significant levels of pessimism could signify an underlying mental health challenge.
A pessimist's defeatist thought patterns may perpetuate a cycle of negative thought patterns, which can harm a person's overall psychological or physical well-being. The term pessimism is derived from the Latin word "pessimus," meaning "the worst." This word was first used in a novel by Voltaire and "Candide, ou Optimisme." Voltaire was a philosopher who talked about the issue of pessimism. Philosophical pessimism is not a mental outlook but a worldview where you are inherently skeptical, whereas pessimism regarding mental health is about negative thinking.
Pessimism And Negative Thinking
Pessimists may perceive themselves as stuck in a feedback loop where they continuously believe in the worst-case scenario. It can be challenging to break out of a pattern of perpetual negative thinking if one is accustomed to this way of viewing the world.
From a psychological point of view, pessimism may be considered a form of distorted thinking. For example, if someone taking a chance to date new people assumes they will be rejected, they may be partaking in black-and-white thinking or a pessimistic viewpoint. It could keep them from continuing to date or trusting that they'll find a match.
Negative thinking may lead to individuals not taking positive risks that could lead to positive outcomes. For instance, someone might avoid a job interview out of fear of not getting a job, even if they're a favorable candidate for the position.
Can Being Pessimistic Be Positive?
Philosophical pessimism isn't necessarily unhealthy. However, a pessimistic mindset in the long term could have negative impacts or be a sign of an underlying mental health condition, like depression. Keeping an eye on your tendency to assume the worst out of situations and considering talking to others about your thought patterns can be crucial. A professional may be able to guide you in changing the thoughts that most negatively affect you or your relationships.
Although optimism is the opposite of pessimism, it can also cause challenges. For this reason, some experts may recommend maintaining a balance between optimism, realism, and pessimism. The articles above offer more insight into these topics and how they connect.
Professional Support Options
If you want to learn more about how you see the world and how you respond to challenging situations, consider contacting a therapist. Therapy can be found online or in person, but some clients prefer online therapy platforms like BetterHelp due to their convenience and flexibility.
Online platforms allow clients to meet with a therapist from anywhere with an internet connection, which can benefit those dealing with pessimistic thoughts stemming from depression. Depression can make it difficult to get out of bed or set appointments, so having an online therapist can allow you to access phone, video, or chat sessions weekly from home.
Studies also back up the effectiveness of online modalities. One study found that 71% of clients found online therapy more effective than in-person options, and 100% believed it was more convenient. Many also reported finding online therapy more affordable.
Pessimism is a philosophical school of thought and an unhealthy coping mechanism, depending on its use. To learn more about pessimism, consider reading the articles above and reaching out to a licensed mental health professional for personalized support.