Use the symptom tracker worksheet to identify when and where your most troubling symptoms occur and how effective you are in coping with them.
Distressing symptoms can take many forms. In depression, symptoms could include episodes of hopelessness and rumination; in anxiety disorders, it could include avoidance of feared events or situations or unnecessary safety-seeking behaviours; in generalised anxiety disorder it could include worry and indecisiveness; in post traumatic stress it could include intrusive memories, flashbacks or nightmares; in OCD it could include intrusive thoughts, urges, doubts or images and the associated rituals and compulsions that you feel obliged to perform; in insomnia it could include not being able to get off to sleep, having broken sleep through the night, or waking early and not being able to get back to sleep; in physical health problems it could include pain or fatigue.
Whatever the specific symptom, one of the ways in which CBT can help you to gain control over troubling symptoms is by keeping a record of when and where the symptom occurs, how you tried to manage the symptom, and how effective you were in tackling it. This record starts by providing a baseline for how often and how severe your symptoms are. If you regularly record your symptoms and your coping behaviour, over time this can help to increase your confidence that you can manage both the symptoms and the distress associated with them.
Start your symptom tracker diary by recording the date and time when you experienced the symptom. Then record the situation you were in and what, if anything, appeared to trigger the symptom. Write down in as much detail as you can what the symptom was and how it affected you. Record how distressing you found the symptom and how long it lasted for. Then write down how you tried to cope with the symptom, which could include strategies you and your therapist have devised in your CBT sessions. Record how effective your coping behaviour was and, finally, your reflections or observations about the symptom and how you coped on this occasion. Over time you will see how keeping a record of your symptom episodes, and the ways you cope with them, help you to become more effective in managing symptoms.