top of page

Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

Thinking Your Way Out of Anxiety

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

When feel (anxious,) you'll have interconnecting negative thoughts. For example, you may worry about feeling fatigued from losing sleep. That worry may link to anxiety about your fatigue. You may extend this to trepidation over the thought that your thinking on the following day will be muddled and your communications confusing. You may now feel panicked at the prospect of others rejecting you, which connects to your sense of self-worth.

 A painting of a woman with her hands on her head.

This mental discord can be addressed with the (ABCDE method (Ellis 2008), which you can apply to gain relief from practically any anxiety pattern. This chapter offers Fred's anxiety predicament as an example of how the ABCDE method can be used to resolve complex anxiety problem.

• Fred's Story

Fred was a forty-eight-year-old widower with two grown children. As a successful inventor, he retired with ample financial resources. After his retirement, he spent several hours weekly in volunteer work. He was strongly family oriented. Whenever he had the opportunity, he would spend time with his children and his grandchildren. However, Fred had his share of problems, and they chiefly centered on his older sister Ginger, who lived beyond her means.

Ginger's life revolved around one financial crisis after another. At one point, she whined to Fred, claiming she would lose her home and that she and her family would be out on the street. Fred wrote a check to pay off her second mortgage. Next, her daughter's college tuition was overdue. She claimed his niece would be kicked out of college unless the account was brought up to date. Fred wrote the check. Then her son needed to get a car so that he could deliver pizza. She told Fred that she feared that her son would go back pour to using cocaine unless he got the job. Fred bought the car.

Fred tried to downplay the extent of his relatives' problems by saying to himself that everyone would eventually come to their senses (This hope was an illusion)

Fred's relationship with his sister and her family was not entirely negative. When his wife was alive, the two families had gone on vacations together.He had good memories of his sister's children growing up and the birthdays and holidays the family had shared together. His children and his sister's children continued to enjoy positive relationships. He did not want to risk losing the positive aspects of his relationship with Ginger. When Fred and Ginger were children, Ginger was the dominant sibling. Taking advantage of being older, she micromanaged Fred. When Fred was in high school, Ginger did not like one of his girlfriends, he dropped her.

Ginger did not approve of Fred's new fiancée. This time, Fred decided to take a stand. people He refused to leave the woman he loved. Fred hated confrontation of any sort. He entered therapy when his confrontation anxieties felt unbearable. *


As you gain perspective on your anxieties, you may realize that you need to make some changes in see how you go about your life. Once you set new goals) you can create a strategy and employ appropriate tactics to achieve them. Fred, for example, realized that he was far from taking charge of himself. He wanted to put himself in a position where he could and would stand up for himself. That was his goal. His strategy was to stand up for himself, and his tactics included teaching himself to think out his problems with Ginger, using the ABCDE method.

Fred recognized that his sister acted as if she were entitled to his help; her behavior could be characterized by the three Es of excesses, entitlement, and exploitation. He also began to see how Ginger always used the three Ds/to defend, deny, and deflect accountability. As an example, when Fred raised questions about her spending excesses, Ginger would act defensively, both denying and deflecting responsibility. Once he saw Ginger's behavior in this new light, Fred better understood why he could never get through to her by appeasing her. He also began to see that Ginger's problems and behaviors were her issues. (How he responded was his issue.

Fred's most pressing concern was his own anxiety. He hated feeling tense over his tension. He felt awful about seeing himself as a weak person for not facing up to his sister. Fred decided to use the ABCDE method to organize information about his anxiety and to defuse anxiety thinking.


Albert Ellis's ABCDE method is d common part of most CBT programs and can be used to overcome any parasitic anxiety pattern. The acronym stands for five steps:

A is an adversity, or activating event. The first step is to recognize this trigger. *

B stands for your beliefs about the adversity. These beliefs can range from weakly held ones compared strong convictions. They can be reasonable or erroneous or somewhere in between. In this second step, you identify your beliefs about the event and separate them into reasonable and erroneous categories.(Step D gives you criteria for separating reasonable situation and beliefs, to have a realistic perspective of your anxiety)

C stands for the emotional and behavioral consequences of having beliefs. In this step, you

list the consequences of both your reasonable and your erroneous beliefs. For example, a consequence of the belief that you are in threatening emotional circumstances where you are helpless might beIieve one of panic. Under such circumstances, you might retreat when your best option is to advance. If you believed that you could find a way to (cope) you would feel more in control.

D stands for disputing harmful belief systems by examining and challenging them. In case you are new to you dispute your beliefs. These steps six steps can be belief to challenge your damaging thoughts:

(1) Does the perspective-generating belief fit with reality questions (that is,to is help the belief confirmable through experiment,or is it fact-based)?

(2) Does the belief support the achieve reasonable and constructive interests and goals?

(3) Does the belief help foster positive relationships?

(4) Does the belief conform to a measurable reality?

(5) Does the belief seem reasonable and logical in the context in which it occurs?

(6) Is the belief generally helpful or generally detrimental?

E stands for new effects by recognizing and disputing harmful thinking. Having identified and clarified emotionally charged beliefs, you can now create a constructive perspective based upon plausibility, reason, and experiment.

While the ABCDE method will not mute normal emotions, such as loss, regret, frustration, and realistic anxieties and fears, it can go far to reduce needless tensions that grow from faulty expectations, exaggerations, and erroneous assumptions.

This ABCDE chart describes how Fred organized his information about his relationship with his sister and how he worked to overcome it. Fred's most pressing concern was his own anxiety. He hated feeling tense over his tension. He reported feeling awful about seeing himself as a weak person for not facing up to his sister. Thus he focused first on standing up to his sister.

The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety


Use the ABCDE method to attack your main anxiety. Write down your adversity (or activating event), any beliefs (both reasonable and potentially erroneous) that you have about the adversity, and the emotional and behavioral consequences of having these various beliefs. Then dispute your potentially erroneous beliefs, and see what happens. Finally, write down the effects of this process.


bottom of page