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Worry

Human beings experience a wide variety of repetitive thoughts about themselves and their lives, not all of them negative. Reminiscing, savoring, anticipating, problem-solving, and emotional processing are positive examples of repetitive thinking, and go some way to explaining why we have the propensity to engage in repetitive thought. Some types of repetitive thought are unhelpful, though—even harmful. Rumination and worry are two key forms of unhelpful repetitive thought and use of these can predict anxiety and depression (Watkins, 2016). We can conceptualize repetitive thinking about the future as ‘worry,’ and repetitive thinking about the past as ‘rumination.’ They are maintenance factors in conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder and depression (Harvey et al, 2004). Read more

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33 of 33 resources

Intolerance Of Uncertainty

Uncertainty is a normal part of life – we can never be 100% sure about what will happen next. Many people feel good about uncertainty and live lives ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/intolerance-of-uncertainty

Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders (Second Edition): Client Workbook

The Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders (Second Edition) comes in two volumes. This page is for the Client Workbook. ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/unified-protocol-for-transdiagnostic-treatment-of-emotional-disorders-second-edition-client-workbook

Worry Flowchart

Worry is a cognitive process that involves thinking about problems that might happen in a way that causes anxiety. Not all worry is problematic – we ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/worry-flowchart

Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders (Second Edition): Therapist Guide

The Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders (Second Edition) comes in two volumes. This page is for the Therapist Guide. ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/unified-protocol-for-transdiagnostic-treatment-of-emotional-disorders-second-edition-therapist-guide

Worry Postponement

Worry postponement ("worry time") is often prescribed as an exploratory or standalone intervention relatively early in the treatment of GAD, but  ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/worry-postponement

Reactions To Trauma

Traumatic events are shocking and it is normal to feel overwhelmed. Not everybody reacts in the same way though and there is no ‘right’ way to res ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/reactions-to-trauma

Decatastrophizing

Catastrophic thinking (magnification) is characteristic of many anxiety problems. This CBT worksheet for decatastrophizing is a tool for cognitive res ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/decatastrophizing

Understanding Generalized Anxiety And Worry

Our ‘Understanding…’ series is a collection of psychoeducation guides for common mental health conditions. Friendly and explanatory, they are co ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/understanding-generalized-anxiety-and-worry

Mastery Of Your Anxiety And Worry (Second Edition): Workbook

Mastery Of Your Anxiety And Worry comes in two volumes. This page is for the Workbook. Click on the following link to access the accompanying Therapis ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/mastery-of-your-anxiety-and-worry-workbook

Understanding Health Anxiety

Our ‘Understanding…’ series is a collection of psychoeducation guides for common mental health conditions. Friendly and explanatory, they are co ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/understanding-health-anxiety

Worry – Self-Monitoring Record

The Worry – Self-Monitoring Record worksheet is designed to help clients capture information about situations where they engaged in worry. Consisten ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/worry-self-monitoring-record

Worry Thought Record

Anxiety stems from negative predictions about the future (and also from assumptions that one will not be able to cope with the magnitude of the threat ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/worry-thought-record

Cognitive Behavioral Model Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD: Dugas, Gagnon, Ladouceur, Freeston, 1998)

Individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) report significant worry which they find difficult to control and experience as distressing. Numer ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/cognitive-behavioral-model-of-generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad-dugas-gagnon-ladouceur-freeston-1998

Mastery Of Your Anxiety And Worry (Second Edition): Therapist Guide

Mastery Of Your Anxiety And Worry comes in two volumes. This page is for the Therapist Guide. Click on the following link to access the accompanying W ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/mastery-of-your-anxiety-and-worry-therapist-guide

Self-Monitoring Record (Universal)

Developing self-monitoring skills teaches clients to systematically observe and record specific targets such as their own thoughts, body feelings, emo ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/self-monitoring-record-universal

What Keeps Death Anxiety Going?

The “What Keeps It Going?” series is a set of one-page diagrams explaining how common mental health conditions are maintained. Friendly and concis ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/what-keeps-death-anxiety-going

Understanding Death Anxiety

Our ‘Understanding…’ series is a collection of psychoeducation guides for common mental health conditions. Friendly and explanatory, they are co ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/understanding-death-anxiety

Rumination - Self-Monitoring Record

Developing self-monitoring skills teaches clients to systematically observe and record specific targets such as their own thoughts, body feelings, emo ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/rumination-self-monitoring-record

Exposures For Fear Of Body Sensations

Fearful responses to physical sensations are common in several disorders. Interoceptive exposure (or ‘symptom induction’) is an effective treatmen ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/exposures-for-fear-of-body-sensations

Cognitive Behavioral Model Of Health Anxiety (Salkovskis, Warwick, Deale, 2003)

Health anxiety is characterized by a preoccupation with having or acquiring a serious illness, and a high level of anxiety about health. People with h ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/cognitive-behavioral-model-of-health-anxiety-salkovskis-warwick-deale-2003

Problem Solving (CYP)

Effective problem solving is an essential life skill and this Problem Solving worksheet is designed to guide children and adolescents through steps wh ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/problem-solving-cyp

Am I Experiencing Burnout?

‘Burnout’ is characterized by feeling emotionally drained, unmotivated, and ineffective as a result of prolonged stress during work. This can impa ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/am-i-experiencing-burnout

Am I Experiencing Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a condition characterized by problematic worry. Am I Experiencing Generalized Anxiety Disorder? is an indicative ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/am-i-experiencing-generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad

Am I Experiencing Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent fear or anxiety concerning social or performance situations that is out of proportion to the ac ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/am-i-experiencing-social-anxiety

Am I Experiencing Death Anxiety?

Am I Experiencing Death Anxiety? is an indicative screening tool, designed to help clients self-assess whether their experiences might warrant further ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/am-i-experiencing-death-anxiety

Am I Experiencing Health Anxiety?

Health anxiety (also referred to as illness anxiety disorder and hypochondriasis) is a condition characterized by a preoccupation with, or fear about, ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/am-i-experiencing-health-anxiety

Worry Diary (Archived)

NOTE: An improved version of this resource is available here: Worry – Self-Monitoring Record. Older versions of a resource may be archived in t ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/worry-diary-archived

Panic Attack Progress Record

Recovery often has a fluctuating course and it is important to monitor progress in cognitive behavioral therapy. Clients can use the Panic Attack Prog ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/panic-attack-progress-record

Exposures For Fear Of Breathlessness

Fearful responses to benign physical sensations such as breathlessness are common in several disorders, most notably panic disorder (with and without ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/exposures-for-fear-of-breathlessness

Am I Experiencing Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are discrete episodes of intense fear or apprehension. They are accompanied by the rapid and concurrent onset of characteristic symptoms ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/am-i-experiencing-panic-attacks

Cognitive Behavioral Model Of Insomnia (Harvey, 2002)

Insomnia is a highly prevalent sleep disorder characterized by difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, or having non-restorative sleep for at leas ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/cognitive-behavioral-model-of-insomnia-harvey-2002

Am I Experiencing Panic Disorder?

Panic attacks are discrete episodes of intense fear or apprehension, accompanied by the rapid and concurrent onset of several physiological and psycho ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/am-i-experiencing-panic-disorder

Links to external resources

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Guides and workbooks

  • Dealing with worry in low intensity CBT | Chellingsworth, Farrand, Rayson | 2013

Information Handouts

Information (Professional)

Presentations

  • The how and why of rumination and worry | Watkins | 2012
  • Targeting rumination by changing processing style: experiential and Imagery exercises | Watkins | 2011
  • Unwanted intrusive thoughts | David Clark | 2019

Video

  • Stopping spam from going bad | Blake Stobie | 2016

Worksheets

Recommended Reading

  • Watkins, E. R. (2008). Constructive and unconstructive repetitive thought. Psychological Bulletin, 134(2), 163-206
  • Watkins, E. R. (2009). Depressive Rumination and Co-Morbidity: Evidence for Brooding as a Transdiagnostic Process. Journal of Rational-Emotive Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 27, 160-175
  • Watkins, E. R. (2016). Rumination-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression. Guilford Publications.

What Are Rumination And Worry?

Disorders That Are Associated with Rumination and Worry

  • generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • depression
  • social anxiety
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • pain
  • eating disorders
  • insomnia
  • psychosis

Helpful Questions for Assessing Rumination and Worry

  • How often do you find yourself ruminating or dwelling on your problems?
  • When do you tend to do most of your worrying or ruminating?
  • What are the consequences of ruminating and worrying for you? How does it make you feel?
  • Are there any particular feelings that are warning signs that you might worry?
  • What tends to stop your ruminating?

Treatment Approaches That Target Rumination and Worry

A variety of treatment approaches have been identified that target rumination and worry. These include:

  • approaching uncomfortable thoughts and feelings rather than avoiding them;
  • imaginal exposure to a ‘worry script’ or ‘worry story’;
  • problem-solving training;
  • processing information at a more concrete and less abstract level;
  • identifying and challenging positive and negative metacognitive beliefs that may contribute to repetitive thinking.

References

  • Harvey, A. G., Watkins, E., Mansell, W., & Shafran, R. (2004). Cognitive behavioural processes across psychological disorders: A transdiagnostic approach to research and treatment. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Watkins, E. R. (2016). Rumination-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression. New York: Guilford Press.