Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 167–177 | Cite as

The Cognitive Content of Naturally Occurring Worry Episodes

  • Marianna Szabó
  • Peter F. Lovibond


Fifty-seven participants were selected to represent a wide range on the dimension of worry proneness. They monitored and listed their worrisome thoughts in a diary for 7 days, and rated the uncontrollability of each recorded worry episode. Content analysis revealed that 48% of worrisome thoughts could be categorized as reflecting a problem-solving process, 17% as anticipation of future negative outcomes, 11% as “rumination,” and 5% as reflecting “palliative” thoughts and “self blame.” The extent of negative outcome anticipation or problem solving did not covary with worry severity. Higher trait worry proneness and more frequent and uncontrollable worrying during the monitoring period were associated with more rumination and fewer reports of successful solutions to problems. The results suggest that worry consists largely of attempted problem solving, and that one possible mechanism in the emergence of pathological worry may be a failure to bring problem solving to a satisfactory conclusion.

worry GAD self-monitoring problem solving diary 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marianna Szabó
    • 1
  • Peter F. Lovibond
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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