How to Complete a Thought Diary for Social Anxiety

Describe the Activating Event

Describe the event that triggered a strong negative emotion such as social anxiety. The event might be a situation, a thought, or a recollection. State only the facts of the event.

Describe the Consequences of the Event

Describe the consequences of the event. At this point do not worry about your thoughts. What feelings and emotions did you have? Rate the intensity of each feeling or emotion from 0 to 100. Then, choose the one feeling or emotion that you most associate with the event and underline it. Finally, write down any actions or behaviors that you engaged in during the event.

Describe Your Beliefs About the Event

Describe your beliefs about the event. Beliefs might include attitudes, perceptions, expecations and thoughts. What were you thinking about? What was going through your mind? Probe a bit further and think about what underlies your thoughts. Ask yourself questions like "And that is bad because?" or "What does that say about me?". Keep probing until you identify your "hot thought"; the one that is most distressing. Underline this thought and rate how much you believe it on a scale from 0 to 100.

Describe Your Unhelpful Thinking Styles

Describe any unhelpful thinking styles related to your beliefs. Examples of unhelpful thinking styles include: black and white thinking, mental filtering, overgeneralization, jumping to conclusions, emotional reasoning, personalizing, catastrophizing, shoulding and musting, labeling, and magnification and minimization.

Dispute Your Hot Thought

Disputation involves evaluating your hot thought. The key to changing your thoughts is to challenge them. Consider the factual evidence for and against the hot thought that you identified in the beliefs section. How realistic is the thought? If you were not anxious how would you see the situation? Are there any facts you are ignoring? Any other explanations? How would someone else view the situation? Is it helpful for you to think this way? Try to be as objective as you can about your thoughts.

End Result: How to Replace Your Hot Thought

Based on your disputation from step 5, write out more balanced thoughts to replace your hot thought. Then, re-rate your strongest emotion, and re-rate how much you believe the original hot thought.

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