A catastrophizing assessment of worrisome thoughts

Michael W. Vasey, Thomas D. Borkovec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

189 Scopus citations


Cognitive products of anxiety related to the automatic questioning style proposed by Kendall and Ingram (1987) were examined in the context of chronic worry using a method modeled after the cognitive therapy technique of decatastrophizing. As chronic worriers generated sequences of possible catastrophic consequences for two worry topics, they generated significantly more catastrophic steps than nonworriers. Also, worriers reported a significant increase in subjective discomfort as catastrophizing progressed while nonworriers' reports revealed no change. With few exceptions, the content of worriers' catastrophic sequences did not differ from that of nonworriers. Despite this, worriers rated the events in their sequences as significantly more likely to actually occur than nonworriers. These results are consistent with the view of Ingram and Kendall (1987) that anxiety is associated with automatic questions of the form "what if?" It is argued that the differences between the cognitive products of worriers and nonworriers observed during catastrophizing reflect worriers' more ready access to elaborate memory stores of answers to catastrophic "what if?" questions that have been acquired through frequent repetition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-520
Number of pages16
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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