The role of intolerance of uncertainty in all anxiety disorders

Intolerance of uncertainty is the tendency to react negatively on an emotional, cognitive, and behavioral level to uncertain situations and events.

There are two beliefs that maintain Intolerance of Uncertainty
1) Uncertainty has negative behavioral implications for me and means something bad.
2) Uncertainty is unfair and spoils everything. I shouldn’t feel uncertain.

There are two types of Intolerance of Uncertainty
1) Fearful anticipation of uncertainty often leads to avoidance.
2) Inhibitory anxiety in the face of uncertainty often leads to difficulty thinking, talking, making decisions, and taking action.

Self-talk that reduces Intolerance of Uncertainty includes:

  • “It’s okay to feel uncertain. Feeling uncertainty doesn’t mean I’ve done something wrong.”
  • “Anticipatory anxiety is a feeling, not a fact or prediction. That is, it predicts my past, not my future.”
  • “Uncertainty signals opportunity. I don’t know if something will go poorly, but I also don’t know what could go well.”
  • “It’s okay for me to take the next small step in the presence of uncertainty.”

Behavior that reduces Intolerance of Uncertainty includes:

  • Commit to valued behavior to reduce indecisiveness. Practice guessing at the smallest next step.
  • Live in your decision, including taking responsibility for the consequences of those decisions.
  • Bring up an attitude of curiosity so that you can learn from the consequences of your decisions and alter your future decisions. This type of learning prevents paralyzing self-criticism and eventually allows you to relax into uncertainty.

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