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CBT - Play out worst case scenario

CBT - Play out worst case scenario

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If you find your mind constantly wandering towards all of the negative outcomes of a situation, doing a deep dive into the worst case scenario can help you shake it. Playing out the worst case scenario can help you address it directly and look at all the reasons it’s actually an unlikely outcome. This allows us to decatastrophize the situation and establish a healthier outlook.

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How to Do It

When you find yourself worrying about the worst case scenario and experiencing anxiety about the potential outcome, it’s a good time to do this exercise.

  1. Think about the worst case scenario in detail. What’s the worst that could happen? Your crush could say no? Make evidence-based predictions about the likelihood of your scenario playing out like you’re imagining it. If you’ve been in the situation before, think about how it has ended in the past. Did it end up in your worst case scenario? Probably not. What steps have you taken or could you take to avoid the worst case scenario?
  2. When you focus on the negative extreme, it can be easy to dwell on negative possibilities. Try thinking about the best outcome that could come from this situation too. What is the best thing that could happen? Your boss will like your presentation so much she’ll promote you right then and there?
  3. When you’ve considered the two extremes, think about the most likely outcomes. They’re usually somewhere in between fantastic and terrible, with both positive and negative aspects.
    Consider how often you’ve been in this situation and how often your predictions have come true. If you’ve flown twenty times and none of them have ended in a fiery crash, the odds are in your favor that this trip won’t either.
  4. If you find that your anxiety is still lingering after you’ve made it this far, think about what you would do in the event of your worst case scenario. Feeling prepared can help you to feel less anxious about the possibilities.
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  • May reduce anxiety and stress
  • May decrease panic attacks
  • May improve mood
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Time Commitment

5-10 minutes

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Why it works

Like most CBT techniques, this works by looking at the possibilities that frighten you and exploring your reaction to them. When you start to feel anxious about a possible worst case scenario and take a minute to relax, you ground yourself to the reality of the situation. Instead of dwelling on anxiety, you play the scenario out and find the logical conclusions that are most likely to occur.

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Suggested Frequency

Any time you worry about worst case scenarios

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Side Effects

Increased stress

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Gurus/Celebrities/Doing it

Ellie Goulding


Mike Wallace

Brook Shields

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As counterintuitive as it may seem, digging deeper into your fears around a worst case scenario can be incredibly helpful to decatastrophize an event or thought process. The more extreme your scenario, the less likely it is to actually occur and the easier it may be to recognize its unlikelihood.

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 Happiness  Confidence  Stress
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