Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale

Gauge the degree of a patient’s intolerance of uncertainty using the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale! Learn more about it through this guide.

By Matt Olivares on May 15, 2024.

Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

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What is Intolerance of Uncertainty?

Intolerance of Uncertainty refers to a person's lack of inclination or fear of embracing the inherent uncertainty of life. It is an inclination to reject concrete plans, situations, and events. People who are intolerant of uncertainty need predictability in all aspects of life. They are often distressed and anxious when subject to uncertain situations and information, craving reassurance.

While many individuals navigate life by embracing uncertainty and adapting to it, a significant portion cannot tolerate the unknown. Worry becomes their constant companion, and this aversion to uncertainty takes a toll on their mental well-being, decision-making abilities, and crucial life skills such as adaptability. The impact can be even more severe for those with anxiety disorders, panic disorder, major depressive disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder because they can extend to their daily activities.

If you are a mental healthcare professional handling a patient with an anxiety disorder, or if they seem to have an intolerance for uncertainty based on your sessions with them, you can use the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale to gauge their level of intolerance.

Printable Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale

Download this Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale to assess client anxieties.

How to use the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale:

The Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale is an invaluable tool issued to patients with an intolerance for uncertainty or anxiety. It can help gauge the symptoms related to their intolerance.

It can be used in two ways. It's up to you to decide how you want to go about it:

  1. You can use the scale and instruct your patients to answer when you read out each item. The answers are preset for the scale, so they must select from the options. This will be like an interview-style format.
  2. This will make accomplishing the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale take longer, but the upside is that you can have them expound on their answers. You might gain valuable information to help you assess and treat your patient better.
  1. You can hand your patient the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale and have them answer it independently. If they're taking the sheet home, agreeing on when you should receive a fully-accomplished copy is best.

Either way, your patient will do the same thing. Here are some of the items that they have to answer:

  • Uncertainty stops me from having a firm opinion.
  • My mind can't relax if I don't know what will happen tomorrow.
  • Uncertainty makes me uneasy, anxious, or stressed.
  • One should always look ahead to avoid surprises.
  • When I am uncertain, I can't function very well.
  • The smallest doubt can stop me from acting.
  • The ambiguities in life stress me.

To answer these, they simply need to pick from the following answers:

  • Not at all characteristic (1 point)
  • A little characteristic (2 points)
  • Somewhat characteristic (3 points)
  • Very characteristic (4 points)
  • Entirely characteristic (5 points)

There are twenty-seven items in total. Now, the scoring for this scale is based on two factors:

  • Factor 1: Uncertainty has negative behavioral and self-referent implications
  • Factor 2: Uncertainty is unfair and spoils everything

Factor 1 covers the following items: 1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 22, 23, 24, and 25.

Factor 2 covers the following items: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 18, 19, 21, 26, and 27.

There are no score ranges for this scale, but the higher the score for each factor, the higher the severity level of intolerance of uncertainty as well (for each factor).

What are the next steps after using the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale?

Generally, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy treats problematic levels of intolerance of uncertainty. However, this will still depend on the patient's score and the severity of their symptoms. 

Therapists can help provide clinical interventions and teach them skills and techniques to lessen the impact of anxiety symptoms, depression symptoms, and other mental disorders that contribute to the patient's intolerance of uncertainty. They can help them reconfigure the way they think so they don't consider change as a negative event and, instead, come up with a healthier way of thinking about change so they can navigate it.

Do note that the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale shouldn't be used to diagnose a patient with anxiety disorders or other psychiatric disorders. It would be best to conduct a comprehensive examination of a patient to determine what specific mental health problems are. It's best to treat the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale as an assessment that assesses an aspect of anxiety disorders.

Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale example

Now that you know the basic gist of what Intolerance of Uncertainty is all about, as well as what the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale is, how it's answered, and how it's scored, it's time for you to see what the scale looks like. Our template was adapted from the original English version by Buhr, K., and Dugas, M. J. (2002).

What we added are checkboxes for patients to tick. This can be printed, or you can just use the PDF. It has interactable parts, so the scale can be answered on a computer or similar capable device.

If you like what you see and believe this is a good tool to help you gauge patients who have an intolerance for uncertainty or those who are anxious/have an anxiety disorder, then by all means, download our free Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale PDF template! We hope it covers more ground with your work and assists you with making decisions on how to treat your patients.

Download this Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale Example:

Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale Example

When is it best to use the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale?

Before administering the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale, ensuring that your patient feels secure and free from judgment is crucial. Building a foundation of trust and rapport is essential. Once this is established, individuals are more inclined to open up about their mental health struggles. This task can be challenging for many, particularly when conversing with unfamiliar faces or those lacking sufficient trust.

Once you have established a sense of safety and trust with your patient, uncovering and addressing their specific mental health challenges becomes easier. Understanding their issues allows you to tailor your approach accordingly.

During your sessions, if you observe symptoms of anxiety or if the patient has already been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, it is an opportune moment to administer the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale. Anxiety often stems from worry, whether it is rational or not, and uncertainty can significantly contribute to this. By utilizing the scale, you can assess the impact of uncertainty on their well-being and gain valuable insights into their condition.

What are the benefits of using the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale?

It allows professionals to evaluate their patients' intolerance for uncertainty

The Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale assesses patients' intolerance level for uncertainty, providing professionals with valuable insights. Although quantifying such an abstract concept may seem peculiar, assigning a numerical score enables professionals to gauge the severity of each patient. A higher score indicates greater severity, offering professionals a foundation to guide their work.

It can help formulate treatment plans

The responses to each item can serve as discussion points, allowing the professional to delve deeper into the reasons behind the answers. This approach helps identify specific aspects of the patient's life that contribute to their intolerance for uncertainty, giving rise to mental health issues. By personalizing treatment plans that focus on reshaping the patient's cognition and behavioral patterns related to uncertainty, professionals aim to enhance their overall mental well-being.

It can be used to track changes

By utilizing this scale, you can effectively monitor shifts in their perspectives. Even slight changes in their responses and numerical values can indicate a growing acceptance of uncertainty, suggesting improved adaptability in uncertain scenarios. Conversely, if this is not the case, it becomes evident that there is room for improvement. Exploring alternative approaches to reshape their perception of uncertainty becomes crucial in such instances.

References

Buhr, K., & Dugas, M.J. (2002). The Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale: Psychometric properties of the English version. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40(8), 931–946. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0005-7967(01)00092-4

How long does it take to accomplish this scale?
How long does it take to accomplish this scale?

Commonly asked questions

How long does it take to accomplish this scale?

It can be finished within ten minutes.

How do we interpret the findings of this scale given that there’s no score range or designations?

The higher the score, the higher the severity of intolerance.

What if I’m not enrolled in therapy or something similar? Can I use this to assess myself?

Yes, but please don’t make any medical-related decisions on your own or self-diagnose. If you believe that your intolerance for uncertainty has negatively impacted your mental well-being to the extent that it significantly affects your daily life, please see a professional so that you can have an expert help you work through issues related to your intolerance for uncertainty.

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