Challenging worry

When we are worried, we tend to have thinking errors (mentioned in Session 4), learning to spot these in your worrying thoughts is the first step to challenging worry. Some common thinking errors in worry are:


1. All or nothing thinking:
Seeing things as black or white with no middle ground or shades of grey. Either you do things perfectly or you’ve failed
e.g. If I scored 79/100 I’m a failure, but if I scored 80/100 I’ve done well.

3. Catastrophization:
Imagining the worst possible outcome e.g. Scoring 79/100 for a test meant that it is the start of a slippery slope and it is a matter of time before I get to 50/100 and then failing, and not being able to finish year 12.

6. Fortune telling:
Assuming you know what will happen in the future, and that it will be bad
e.g. Every time Kim sat down to study for her exams, she would think that no university would accept her anyway.

2. Overgeneralisation:
Believing that a single or small event is proof of a much bigger problem
e.g. Riley overcooked the pasta for her birthday party and thought that meant that the entire party is a flop.
4. Ignoring the positives:
Ignoring any positive experiences or turning a positive experience into a negative one
e.g. Someone complimented Gina for her art work but she thinks that they are just being polite.

7. Emotional reasoning:
Assuming that because you feel something is bad, then it must be, without seeing if it is a true reflection of the situation
e.g. Because you feel stressed, it must mean that things are difficult or impossible.
5. Mind Reading:
Assuming you know what another person is thinking, and that it is bad
e.g. Michelle was talking to a new friend and when she yawned, Michelle thought: “Oh god, she must be really bored and desperate to get away”, even though the new friend was truly interested and had been talking to her for the past 30minutes.

What are your thinking errors?

  • The more worried people get, the higher they believe the chances of bad things happening. Still, we can rethink the chances of bad things happening to you in a realistic way:
  • How often have I had a worrying thought and it turned out not to be true?
  • If a friend had this worrying thought, what would I say to them?
  • What are the chances of this worrying thought becoming true?
  • How important will this worry seem in a week, month or year?
  • What are the other possibilities besides a negative outcome?


Does worrying help?


Sometimes, we also worry because we believe that they can be helpful. Is that realy true?

  • Can I think of times when I did not worry and things turned out well?
  • Does worry really prevent bad things happening, or make good things happen? Or do these things just happen, with or without my worrying?
  • Does worry really help me cope, or does it make things worse?
  • What are the real effects of worrying – how is it affecting my life?
  • Am I really doing something helpful when I worry or am I making myself feel worse?


We can see that when we worry, we tend to make thinking errors that make us feel even more stressed, and that our worries are unlikely to come true, and worrying isn’t really helpful.