Why you should consider a Cost Benefit Analysis for Anxiety and ADHD

We discuss another technique for anxiety that you can use, if you’re struggling with your thoughts and feel just plain stuck.

If you’re struggling with your thoughts and feel just plain stuck, I want to discuss another technique for anxiety that you can use.

Another Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) technique for anxiety is called a Cost Benefit Analysis. I was introduced it to through Dr. David Burns’ book Feeling Good.

Watch the video version below

Let me explain this technique for anxiety by way of example…

Let’s say that you work in a large office with many employees.  Your anxiety is so bad that the thought of going to work causes you extreme anxiety.  You are scared about the prospect of having a panic attack at the office because you feel everyone will think you are crazy.  Because of these things you have been missing a lot of work lately.

#1 The first step of the Cost-Benefit Analysis is identifying the distortion(s).  You can click here to obtain a list of the cognitive distortions (don’t worry they will open in a new window so you won’t lose your spot).

Consulting the list you’ll likely have seen that the following cognitive distortions are present: Fortune Telling and Mind Reading.  Fortune Telling is present is because on some level you believe that you will have a panic attack at work (if you didn’t you wouldn’t have the thought) so you are predicting the future.

Mind Reading is present because you believe that having a panic attack at work will result in colleagues thinking you are crazy (you are reading their mind in a sense because you are saying to yourself “if I have a panic attack then they’ll think I’m crazy”).

#2 The next step of this cbt technique for anxiety is isolating what belief is driving your behaviour so that you can perform a Cost-Benefit Analysis on it. Well clearly the belief is: “If I have a panic attack at work then everyone will think I’m crazy therefore I want to avoid going to work.”

#3 Next we need to actually perform the Cost-Benefit Analysis.

Here what you are going to do is write down the pros and cons of this belief (in other words, the advantages and disadvantages), so let’s generate some right now.

Some pros are:

1. If I avoid going to work then I don’t have to worry about having a panic attack there.
2. If I avoid going to work then I don’t have to worry about what people will think of me.

Some cons are:

1. If I avoid going to work then eventually I may lose my job and will not have a source of income.
2. I’ll miss out on the social interactions possible at work.
3. It restricts my freedom if I don’t allow myself to go places.
4. It’s much harder to meet people because work is a place to do that.
5. It’s a frustrating feeling that I’m unable to go to work because of this fear.
6. If I don’t stand up to this fear can I ever work through it?
7. Won’t this fear always have control of my life?
8. Won’t I miss many opportunities because of this fear?

It is obvious that there are far more many disadvantages in maintaining such a belief.

#4 The last step of this cbt technique for anxiety, in light of the overwhelming evidence, is: coming up with healthier, more realistic, thoughts.

Here are some examples:

“While I might get nervous at work, the world will not come to an end.”
“Most people are much more concerned about themselves than watching my every move.”

“I could be incredibly nervous and people are unlikely to even notice.”
“I don’t need to let this fear stop me from doing what’s in my best interest, and clearly going to work is.”

Now I’m not suggesting that a Cost-Benefit Analysis is a technique for anxiety applicable to all your thoughts but it is one more technique for anxiety that can be quite helpful at times.  There are many other CBT techniques for anxiety that I discuss in my free newsletter along with providing an overall approach to anxiety, panic attacks, and agoraphobia.  Please sign-up below.

D. Burns. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.