New Study Shows 91 Percent of Fears Don't Come True


When your spouse doesn't answer the phone or when the elevator pauses for a second, it's easy for your mind to go to the worst-case scenario (i.e. they're dead and you're stuck). Many of us have a tendency to jump to negative conclusions. But now, a new study published in the journal Behavior Therapy has determined how likely it is that those big fears will come true—and the findings will surely put your mind at ease.

For their research, members of the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania analyzed 29 patients with generalized anxiety disorder to find out how accurate their expectations of poor outcomes were. Over the course of 10 days, the participants recorded their worries and then they monitored those fears for the next 30 days to see which came to fruition. (Independent raters then analyzed the results for bias.)

The findings showed that 91.4 percent of predicted worries did not come true for participants. In fact, the most common amount of untrue worries per person was 100 percent. That's right, not a single worry came true in the month-long study for many of the participants. 

Not only were the results great news for the study subjects, but the analysis also helped contribute to their treatment. Having their concerns amount to nothing showed how easily thoughts can pervade a person's mind, but still be far from realistic.

So, how can you use this to cope with your own anxieties and negative thoughts? Analyzing where your worries come from is the key to helping to counteract them, according to Grace Suh, a licensed mental health counselor based in New York City.

"For example, if your boyfriend does not pick up your phone call, one individual might think 'He's probably busy' and another individual might think, 'He doesn't like me anymore' and jumps to an irrational conclusion without evidence and may hurt the relationship," Suh tells Best Life. "These automatic responses are developed from core beliefs—beliefs that they have about themselves and how they view the world." According to Suh, an individual who has a positive sense of self "may not be as quick to jump to a negative conclusion because of one unanswered call."

And each time you can acknowledge that a fear did not come true, it gives you reassurance that can help combat the anxiety. Of course, like most things, you won't be worry-free overnight. But with mindfulness and a little bit of effort, these controlling fears can be put on the back-burner and become less and less frequent. Remember, the odds are in your favor! And if you're trying to cope with not thinking the worst, try these 23 Great Ways to Conquer Negative Thinking.

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