Using a Thought Record for Panic Disorder

Learn to Replace Your Negative Thoughts

The idea that your thoughts, feelings, and emotions drive your views, self-concepts, and behaviors is largely based off of concepts derived from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The theory of CBT suggests that negative thoughts guide you towards unpleasant emotions and unwanted behaviors.

Known as cognitive distortions, these negative thoughts are riddled with false assumptions and unrealistic expectations.

For example, you may jump to conclusions, predicting that an upcoming event will turn out poorly, even if there is no evidence to support your belief. 

Often times panic disorder sufferers can be prone to negative thinking.  However, you can get past this issue through the use of CBT-based techniques. A thought record is one such strategy that can assist you in creating more realistic ways of looking at your life, instead of falling for habitual negative thoughts and self-defeating beliefs.

How to Use a Thought Record

A thought record can be an easy and effective way to track, challenge, and change your automatic negative thoughts. This technique forces you to recognize and question the validity of your negative thinking patterns. You may gain some valuable insights and be able to view your life with a new perspective. All you really need to get started with a thought record is a pen, some paper, and a little bit of time to reflect on your thinking.

To begin, you will need to write down 7 different steps to changing your faulty thoughts. The following outlines each section to follow in order to shift your thinking:

  1. The Situation. Begin by writing down the specific situation or event that occurred and seemed to trigger your automatic negative response. For example, imagine that you are invited to join some of your coworkers for an after work networking event, but are afraid to attend out of concern that your anxiety will be detected by others.
  1. Feelings. Next, write down all the feelings you experience following the event or situation. Using the example above, you may write down that you experienced strong emotions such as, anxiousness, fear, nervousness, sadness, irritation, and embarrassment.  
  2. Automatic Negative Thoughts. Now jot down all of the negative thoughts, cognitive distortions, or self-defeating beliefs that have lead to your feelings. For instance, you may be thinking, “I’ll just embarrass myself in front of my coworkers,” “No one would respect me if they knew that I had panic attacks,” or “I will never succeed because of my anxiety issues.”
  3. Evidence that Supports Your Negative Thoughts. Now that you have identified your negative thoughts, it’s time to record any proof or compelling facts to support them. Some facts may include, “Once when I told a friend about my anxiety, he became very standoffish” or “Some of my family members have told me my anxiety is all in my head.”
  4. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts. It is now time to dispute your negative thinking patterns. Write down facts that are contrary to your automatic thoughts, such as “Many people who know that I have anxiety disorder still care about me,” “Despite my anxiety, I am a worthwhile person,” or “Everyone faces issues in life. Besides, most people are too concerned about how they are coming across to even notice if I’m a little anxious.”  
  1. Make a Plan. Determine what you are going to do to get through your situation. For example, you may decide to attend the event, but have a plan of exiting early should you feel too anxious or experience a panic attack.
  2. Reflect on the Outcome. Last, write down how you feel after confronting and changing your negative thoughts. You may notice that you are feeling less worried about the situation. Other outcomes may include, having a good time while at the event, meeting new coworkers outside of your department, or feeling more confident in your ability to cope with panic and anxiety.  


  • It may seem challenging to record your thoughts in this way, but your ability to identify, refute, and correct your negative thoughts should get easier over time. Through practice and patience, you may find that keeping a thought record is easier than it initially seems.
  • Put time aside each day for your thought record. You may not be able to get to it right after an event or trigger occurs, but be certain that you make time for it by the end of the day. You can always try to jot down a few notes when the situation occurs, making it easier to get back into these emotions when it comes time to work through your thought record.
  • If you are having a hard time coming up with alternative or realistic thoughts, recruit others for ideas. You can ask your therapist to assist you in coming up with healthier replacements or friends and family may also be able to assist you in gaining a fresh perspective on your habitual ways of thinking.
  • A thought record can help you with issues beyond panic disorder and anxiety. You can use this as a tool to also work through co-existing conditions, including depression, eating disorders, and additional anxiety disorders.
  • Keeping a thought record can assist you in effectively coping with some of the symptoms of panic disorder, however, for best results in recovery, it is often best to seek out professional help.


Burns, D. D. (2008). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. New York: HarperCollins.

Burns, D. D. (2006). When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life. New York: Random House.

Davis, M., Eshelman, E. R., and McKay, M. (2008). The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger. 

Greenberger, D. & Padesky, C. (1995). Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think. New York: The Guilford Press. 

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