Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ)

The Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ) is a self-report instrument specifically designed to assess the trait of pathological worry, the primary feature of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Developed in the early 1990s by Meyer, Miller, Metzger, and Borkovec, the PSWQ addresses the need for a reliable and valid measure to evaluate the intensity and generality of worry in individuals. The questionnaire consists of 16 items, each probing the frequency and severity of worry across different contexts and scenarios. Participants respond to these items on a scale ranging from 1 (not at all typical of me) to 5 (very typical of me), enabling clinicians and researchers to quantify worry as a pervasive cognitive pattern. This scale has been important in both clinical diagnosis and in research settings, facilitating a deeper understanding of worry as a distinct psychological construct.

The PSWQ’s structure and specific focus on worry make it an effective tool for distinguishing between nominal and pathological worrying. By assessing worry across a spectrum of situations, the PSWQ helps identify excessive worry, a hallmark of GAD, and differentiates it from the worry experienced by individuals without an anxiety disorder. This distinction is crucial for accurate diagnosis and treatment planning, as pathological worry can significantly impair an individual’s daily functioning and overall quality of life. The PSWQ’s sensitivity to changes in worry levels also makes it a valuable instrument for evaluating the efficacy of therapeutic interventions, providing insights into how treatments can reduce the severity of worry and improve patient outcomes.

Despite its widespread use and contributions to the field of psychology, the PSWQ has been subject to scrutiny and calls for further validation. Critics have pointed out the need for more research to understand the scale’s applicability across diverse populations, including non-English speakers and cultural groups where expressions of worry may differ. Moreover, some studies suggest exploring the PSWQ’s effectiveness in distinguishing between worry and related constructs such as rumination or fear. Nonetheless, the Penn State Worry Questionnaire remains a foundational tool for assessing worry, playing a critical role in the diagnosis and treatment of generalized anxiety disorder and in advancing research on the nature of worry. Its continued use underscores the importance of specialized measures in enhancing our understanding and treatment of anxiety disorders.

Rate each of the following statements on a scale of 1 (“not at all typical of me”) to 5 (“very typical of me”). Please do not leave any items blank.

  (1) Not at all typical of me (2) (3) (4) (5) Very typical of me
1. If I do not have enough time to do everything, I do not worry about it.
2. My worries overwhelm me.
3. I do not tend to worry about things.
4. Many situations make me worry.
5. I know I should not worry about things, but I just cannot help it.
6. When I am under pressure I worry a lot.
7. I am always worrying about something.
8. I find it easy to dismiss worrisome thoughts.
9. As soon as I finish one task, I start to worry about everything else I have to do.
10. I never worry about anything.
11. When there is nothing more I can do about a concern, I do not worry about it any more.
12. I have been a worrier all my life.
13. I notice that I have been worrying about things.
14. Once I start worrying, I cannot stop
15. I worry all the time.
16. I worry about projects until they are all done.
  1. TJ Meyer, ML Miller, RL Metzger, and TD Borkovec. Development and Validation of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire. 28 Behav Res Ther 487-495. .