At one time or another, we all have experienced moments where we may have felt fearful or worrisome. Have you ever experienced moments where a certain event happens, or a thought pops up in your mind and you find yourself sweating and/or your muscles tense, and/or you feel like you have something caught in your throat? Or let’s think back to when you first learned to drive, did you find yourself feeling anxious or worried?
We all have moments when we experience anxiety symptoms. However, when intense fear, worry, and distress become overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday activities, an anxiety disorder may be the cause. Anxiety involves feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension that have cognitive, emotional, and physical effects. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder. That is close to one out of every five people. There are different cognitive, spiritual, and physical tools you can use to help reduce anxiety symptoms. Today we will review a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skill, Check the Facts; this skill can help reduce worry, fear, and distress caused by our thoughts.
Check the facts
Check the facts is a (DBT) skill that helps us stick to the facts of each situation. This skill reminds us that though our emotions are valid and important, it also recognizes that our emotions alone don’t give us the full picture of each situation. Check the facts is a great skill to use when we may be catastrophizing ( jumping to the worst possible conclusion, usually with very limited information). Many emotions and actions are set off by our thoughts and interpretations of events, not by the events themselves. (Event → Thoughts → Emotions). Our emotions can also have a big effect on our thoughts about events (Event → Emotion → Thought). Examining our thoughts and checking the facts can help us change our emotions or reduce the intensity of the emotion we feel. We will go step by step through how to Check the Facts.
Step 1 – Ask: What is the emotion I want to change?
The first step when using check the facts is to identify what emotion you are feeling. You then want to rate the intensity of the emotion. If you can’t identify the emotion it will be very difficult to change the emotion.
Step 2.- Ask: What is the event prompting my emotion?
A prompting event is an event that happens before the onset of the emotion. When identifying your prompting event, you want to make sure to describe the facts that you observed through your senses. It is very important to stick to the facts when it comes to describing your prompting event. For example, let’s say your partner did not answer your text message for two hours, and
then you became worried. You don’t want to add any assumptions as to why your partner did not answer you.
Step 3- Ask: What are my interpretations, thoughts, and assumptions about the event?
During step three you want to identify all of your assumptions, thoughts, and interpretations about the event. You also want to explore alternative interpretations. Going back to the example earlier, let’s say your partner does not answer your text for two hours and you assume they are mad at you. An alternative interpretation could be your partner may be busy or could be taking a nap. Practice looking at all sides of a situation and all points of view and test your interpretations and assumptions to see if they fit the facts.
Step 4- Ask: Am I assuming a threat?
After completing step 3 you want to ask yourself, am I assuming a threat? Label the threat. Assess the probability that the threatening event will occur. Think of as many other possible outcomes as you can.
Step 5 – Ask: What’s the catastrophe?
The next step you want to ask yourself is what is the catastrophe? What is the worst-case scenario? After identifying the catastrophe, you want to imagine the catastrophe occurring and think about the tools you have to cope with it. Ask yourself, can I problem solve the situation, change my emotion using a skill, radically accept the situation, or do I want to stay miserable? Something to remember is that regardless of the situation you have the tools available to get through it!
Step 6- Ask: Does my emotion and/or its intensity fit the actual facts? The last step of Check the Facts is asking yourself “does your emotion/ intensity fit the facts of the situation”. If not, you want to evaluate and reflect on the situation. You may also want to tap into another DBT skill like opposite action to help you regulate your emotions.