Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 109–120 | Cite as

Worry and problem solving: Evidence of a specific relationship

  • Michel J. Dugas
  • Hélène Letarte
  • Josée Rhéaume
  • Mark H. Freeston
  • Robert Ladouceur


Recent studies suggest that worry is related to deficient problem-solving ability. This paper presents the relationship between worry and problem solving. Worry was measured with the Worry Domains Questionnaire (Tallis, Eysenck, & Mathews, 1992) and the Penn State Worry Questionnaire (Meyer, Miller, Metzger, & Borkovec, 1990); problem solving was assessed with the Social Problem-Solving Inventory (D'Zurilla & Nezu, 1990) and the Problem-Solving Inventory (Heppner & Petersen, 1982); and mood state was evaluated with the Beck Anxiety Inventory (Beck, Epstein, Brown, & Steer, 1988) and the Beck Depression Inventory (Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979). Subjects were 122 university students. The hypotheses were the following: (1) Worry would be negatively related to problem solving; and (2) cognitive and affective factors would play a more important role than behavioral deficits in limiting problem-solving ability. As both problem-solving scales are multidimensional, regression analyses predicted worry scores from the problem-solving scales. Results show that subscales describing theoretically sound problem-solving behaviors accounted for trivial or no variance in worry scores. On the other hand, even when mood state had been partialed out by hierarchical regression, subscales describing reactions to problematic situations predicted worry scores. Therefore, both hypotheses were confirmed. These results suggest that worry is related to problem orientation (i.e., immediate cognitive-behavioral-affective reactions to problematic situations) but not to problem-solving skills (i.e., articulating goals, generating solutions, making decisions, and implementing and verifying solutions). Clinical implications are discussed.

Key words

worry problem solving problem orientation generalized anxiety disorder 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1987).Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed., rev.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (1993).DSM-IV options book: Work in progress. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, A. T., Epstein, N., Brown, G., & Steer, R. A. (1988). An inventory for measuring clinical anxiety: Psychometric properties.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 893–897.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979).Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  5. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Garbin, M. G. (1988). Psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory: Twenty-five years of evaluation.Clinical Psychology Review, 8, 77–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Borkovec, T. D. (1985). Worry: A potentially valuable concept.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 23, 481–482.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Borkovec, T. D., & Inz, J. (1990). The nature of worry in generalized anxiety disorder: A predominance of thought activity.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 28, 153–158.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Borkovec, T. D., Wilkinson, L., Folensbee, R., & Lerman, C. (1983). Stimulus control applications to the treatment of worry.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 21, 247–251.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bourque, P., & Beaudette, D. (1982). Etude psychométrique du questionnaire de dépression de Beck auprès d'un échantillon d'étudiants universitaires francophones [Psychometric study of the Beck Depression Inventory with French-Canadian university students].Revue Canadienne des Sciences de Comportement, 14, 211–218.Google Scholar
  10. Brodbeck, C., & Michelson, L. (1987). Problem-solving skills and attributional styles of agoraphobics.Cognitive Therapy and Research, 11, 593–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brown, T. A., Anthony, M. M., & Barlow, D. H. (1992). Psychometric properties of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire in a clinical anxiety disorders sample.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 30, 33–37.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Butler, G., Wells, A., & Dewick, H. (1992, June).Differential effects of worry and imagery after exposure to a stressful stimulus. Paper presented at the World Congress of Cognitive Therapy, Toronto, Canada.Google Scholar
  13. Craske, M. G., Barlow, D. H., & O'Leary, T. (1992).Mastery of your anxiety and worry. Albany, NY: Graywind Publications.Google Scholar
  14. Craske, M. G., Rapee, R. M., Jackel, L., & Barlow, D. H. (1989). Qualitative dimensions of worry in DSM-III-R generalized anxiety disorder subjects and nonanxious controls.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 27, 397–402.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Davey, G. C. L. (1993). A comparison of three worry questionnaires.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 31, 51–56.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Davey, G. C. L. (1994). Worrying, social problem-solving abilities, and social problem-solving confidence.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 32, 327–330.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Davey, G. C. L., Hampton, J., Farrell, J., & Davidson, S. (1992). Some characteristics of worrying: Evidence for worrying and anxiety as separate constructs.Personality and Individual Differences, 13, 133–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dugas, M. J., Freeston, M. H., Blais, F., & Ladouceur, R. (1993). Prise de décision et stimuli ambigus chez les personnes souffrant du trouble d'anxiété généralisée et d'inquiétude excessive [Decision making and ambiguous stimuli in people with generalized anxiety disorder and excessive worry].Société Québecoise pour la Recherche en Psychologie: Programme et Résumés des Communications, 16, 62.Google Scholar
  19. D'Zurilla, T. J. (1986).Problem-solving therapy: A social competence approach to clinical intervention. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  20. D'Zurilla, T. J., & Goldfried, M. R. (1971). Problem solving and behavior modification.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 78, 107–126.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. D'Zurilla, T. J., & Nezu, A. M. (1990). Development and preliminary evaluation of the Social Problem-Solving Inventory.Psychological Assessment, 2, 156–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Freeston, M. H., Ladouceur, R., Gagnon, F., Thibodeau, N., & Rhéaume, J. (1994). L'Inventaire d'Anxiété de Beck: Propriétés psychométriques d'une traduction française [The Beck Anxiety Inventory: Psychometric properties of a French translation].L'Encéphale, XX, 47–55.Google Scholar
  23. Freeston, M. H., Rhéaume, J., Letarte, H., Dugas, M. J., & Ladouceur, R. (in press). Why do people worry?Personality and Individual Differences.Google Scholar
  24. Heppner, P. P., & Petersen, C. H. (1982). The development and implication of a personal problem-solving inventory.Journal of Counseling Psychology, 29, 66–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ladouceur, R., Freeston, M. H., Dumont, J., Letarte, H., Rhéaume, J., Gagnon, F., & Thibodeau, N. (1992). Penn State Worry Questionnaire: Validity and reliability of a French translation.Canadian Psychology, 33, 236.Google Scholar
  26. Ladouceur, R., Freeston, M. H., Gagnon, F., Thibodeau, N., & Dumont, J. (1992, June).Cognitive-behavioral treatment of obsessional thoughts. Communication presented at the World Congress of Cognitive Therapy, Toronto, Canada.Google Scholar
  27. Laporte, L., Sabourin, S., & Wright, J. (1988). L'Inventaire de Résolution de Problèmes Personnels [The Personal Problem-Solving Inventory].International Journal of Psychology, 23, 569–581.Google Scholar
  28. Metzger, R. L., Miller, M. L., Cohen, M., Sofka, M., & Borkovec, T. D. (1990). Worry changes decision making: The effect of negative thoughts on cognitive processing.Journal of Clinical Psychology, 46, 78–88.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Meyer, T. J., Miller, M. L., Metzger, R. L., & Borkovec, T. D. (1990). Development and validation of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 28, 487–495.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Nezu, A. M. (1986). Negative life stress and anxiety: Problem solving as a moderator variable.Psychological Reports, 58, 279–283.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Nezu, A. M., & Carnevale, G. J. (1987). Interpersonal problem solving and coping reactions of Vietnam veterans and posttraumatic stress disorder.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 96, 155–157.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Nezu, A. M., & D'Zurilla, T. J. (1989). Social problem solving and negative affective conditions. In P. C. Kendall & D. Watson (Eds.),Anxiety and depression (pp. 285–315). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  33. Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., & Perri, M. G. (1989).Problem-solving therapy for depression: Theory, research, and clinical guidelines. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  34. Nezu, A. M., & Perri, M. G. (1989). Social problem-solving for unipolar depression: An initial dismantling investigation.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57, 408–413.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Platt, J. J., & Spivack, G. (1975). Unidimensionality of the Means-Ends Problem-Solving (MEPS) procedure.Journal of Clinical Psychology, 31, 15–16.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Pruzinsky, T., & Borkovec, T. D. (1990). Cognitive and personality characteristics of worriers.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 28, 507–512.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Tallis, F., Eysenck, M., & Mathews, A. (1991). Elevated evidence requirements and worry.Personality and Individual Differences, 12, 21–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tallis, F., Eysenck, M., & Mathews, A. (1992). A questionnaire for the measurement of nonpathological worry.Personality and Individual Differences, 13, 161–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Vallerand, R. J. (1989). Vers une méthodologie de validation transculturelle de questionnaires psychologiques: Implications pour la recherche en langue française [Toward a transcultural validation methodology of psychological questionnaires: Implications for French language research].Psychologie Canadienne, 30, 662–680.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michel J. Dugas
    • 1
  • Hélène Letarte
    • 1
  • Josée Rhéaume
    • 1
  • Mark H. Freeston
    • 1
  • Robert Ladouceur
    • 1
  1. 1.École de psychologieUniversité LavalCanada

Personalised recommendations