Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS – also called a Subjective Units of Disturbance Scale) is a scale of 0 to 10 for measuring the subjective intensity of disturbance or distress currently experienced by an individual. The individual self assesses where they are on the scale.

The SUD-level was developed by Joseph Wolpe in 1969.

The SUDS may be used as a benchmark for a professional or observer to evaluate the progress of treatment.

In desensitization-based therapies the patients’ regular self assessments enable them to guide the clinician repeatedly as part of the therapeutic dialog.

Used in EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), TFT (Trauma-Focused Therapy), EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), Anxiety Disorders and for research purposes.

one version of the scale:

10 = Feels unbearably bad, beside yourself, out of control as in a nervous breakdown, overwhelmed, at the end of your rope.  You may feel so upset that you don’t want to talk because you can’t imagine how anyone could possibly understand your agitation.

9 = Feeling desperate.  What most people call a 10 is actually a 9.  Feeling extremely freaked out to the point that it almost feels unbearable and you are getting scared of what you might do.  Feeling very, very bad, losing control of your emotions.

8 = Freaking out.  The beginning of alienation.

7 = Starting to freak out, on the edge of some definitely bad feelings.  You can maintain control with difficulty.

6 = Feeling bad to the point that you begin to think something ought to be done about the way you feel.

5 = Moderately upset, uncomfortable.  Unpleasant feelings are still manageable with some effort.

4 = Somewhat upset to the point that you cannot easily ignore an unpleasant thought.  You can handle it OK but don’t feel good.

3 = Mildly upset.  Worried, bothered to the point that you notice it.

2 = A little bit upset, but not noticeable unless you took care to pay attention to your feelings and then realize, “yes” there is something bothering me.

1 = No acute distress and feeling basically good.  If you took special effort you might feel something unpleasant but not much.

0 = Peace, serenity, total relief.  No more anxiety of any kind about any particular issue.

Please visit KnowMental’s version:

My therapist utilizes the SUDS scale from 1 – 100 to list exposure therapy situations.  Listed 10 situations that cause anxiety.  Scaling the lowest at 10 (beginner exposure) and increasing by 10’s.

10 – LEAST Anxiety
100 – MOST Anxiety

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Quoted from Source: – Subjective Units of Distress Scale

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