Recording and Classifying My Worries

Worry is one of the central features in GAD, causing the individual to feel anxious. Therefore, one of the best ways to manage your anxiety is to learn how to manage your worry. In order to do this, you first need to become an expert at recognizing your worry. While you may think that you are already a “worry expert” since you do it everyday, interestingly, most adult worriers when asked, either can’t remember or they can only recall 1 or 2 “greatest hits” (most common worries) and forget about the rest. Thus, the best way to start noticing and recognizing your worries is to begin recording them in a worry diary. Use the worry diary form to write down what you are worrying about at set times, usually 2-3 times a day is good, recording the trigger for your worry and your anxiety level. Once you have become good at this, and have a small stack of worry diaries (i.e. 10-20), you can start to look at the themes that emerge.

There are 2 general types of worries:

  1. Worries about current problems (e.g. “what if I don’t have enough money to pay the bills?”, “what if I don’t finish my report on time?”, “what if my argument with my friend means we never speak again?”)
  2. Worries about hypothetical situations (e.g. “what if the flight I’m taking next month crashes?”; “what if I get a serious disease when I’m older?”)

One of the main differences between these 2 types of worries is the amount of control you have over the situation. With worries about current problems, you usually have some direct control over the situation. For example, you can manage your finances, work on your reports, or resolve an argument with a friend. In contrast, with worries about hypothetical situations you have almost no control, so there is very little, if anything, that you can do to change the situation. For example, unless you are the pilot, you have no control over how a flight will go. And beyond basic good health, exercise and nutrition, you cannot control whether you will contract a serious disease years from now.

Fortunately, for each worry type, there are different yet effective methods to manage them. For worry about current problems where you have some direct control, you can learn to apply the Problem Solving, Challenging Negative Thinking, and Helpful Thinking tools to decrease worry. For worry about hypothetical situations where you have almost no control, you can learn to apply the Tolerating Uncertainty, Rethinking the Usefulness of Worry and, Writing a Worry Script tools to decrease worry.

REMEMBER: Many people with GAD are afraid that recording and classifying their worries will make their GAD symptoms worse. This is not true. You are simply becoming an expert at catching and recognizing your worries. They are already there. You are merely observing them with greater attention. This is important if you want to be able to manage your worries.