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Why Do We Worry So Much?

Worrying seems to be commonplace for many, if not, most people today. The question I often asked myself is, why do people worry? A little worry is probably necessary in order to motivate us to do things that need to get done. On the other hand, excessive worry tends to keep us incapacitated to the point of indecision and inaction.

In asking myself the question of Why Do People Worry? I draw upon my 25+ years of experience in working with clients, as well as personal experience. My conclusion is that people worry in an attempt to solve their problems. Given this, why is that worry actually hinders us from solving the very problems (I prefer to use the word “challenges”) that beset us? This is because excessive worry activates the amygdala housed in the limbic system of the brain, while short circuiting our prefrontal cortex. The limbic system is the “emotional center” of our brain that controls “fight or flight.” Fight of flight is a primitive mechanism going back to the cavemen that keeps us safe from danger. When a person excessively worries, this mechanism becomes overactive, releasing excessive amounts of adrenaline, causing us to see dangers that are not really there or to overestimate danger. Thus, excessive worrying hijacks the amygdala housed in the limbic system and shuts off, or derails, the prefrontal lobe of the brain, which regulates rational thinking. Thus, you become “emotionally activated” versus calm and rational in your thinking. This strong emotional charge makes it hard, if not impossible, to find solutions to life challenges.

My theory, which is based on empirical observation, is that people worry in an attempt to “control” their problems. They believe that if they control their problems, they can eventually solve them. If you share this belief, ask yourself how exercising control of your problems actually helps you solve your problems. I think that if you give it some thought, you will probably come to the conclusion that excessive worry, in fact, makes it harder from finding good solutions while keeping you emotionally activated. The very things you are trying to solve are intensified through excessive worry.  

Once you let go of trying to control every aspect of your day, the excessive worry should slowly lessen in your every day life. The things that you can’t control but continue to stress about often bring about the most worry and anxiety. These are natural remedies such as meditation that assist in easing this stress and worry. Adding psychotherapy to the process offers the best chance at finding joy and happiness in your life once again.

So, what’s a good way to tackle worry so it does not overtake your ability to make sound decisions? Well, a first step might be to examine (rather than avoid) what it is that worries you, write down possible solutions, and then rank them according to what’s doable versus what needs to be tabled for a later time or discarded altogether. In doing so, you will take yourself out of worry mode into “problem-solving mode.” The worst thing you can do is to allow these obsessive thoughts to control your feelings and emotions, which brings about more panic and stress in your life. Brainstorming solutions is a positive step toward a long-term solution so that you can be calm and peaceful as you tackle the challenges of everyday life.

Stress and worry affect our lives in so many ways. These psychological issues can cripple our productivity and make us depressed. Psychotherapists and counselors often deal with patients that struggle with worry. However, not all hope is lost. Many mental health professionals use a variety of evidence-based and solution-focused approaches to tackle worry, in the same way that anxiety is treated. Worry and anxiety are correlated and go hand-in-hand, often requiring a similar treatment approach.

There are many treatment options for excessive worry, stress, and anxiety. A combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) along with a good support system can help ease the symptoms of excessive worry. When searching for a stress and anxiety therapist, personal experience and stress in overcoming anxiety is very helpful. These mental health professionals with experience in fighting overwhelming stress and worry are able to understand your struggle and how the symptoms of anxiety affect your daily life.

Anxiety, stress, and worry not only affect your psychologically, but also physically. Living with this fear and stress is not pleasant and requires action to change your pattern of thoughts. In today’s society, we are so obsessed with having to control every single aspect of our lives, which is to the detriment of your personal health and well-being. Taking a step back and looking at what’s making you worried can bring many positive benefits. Don’t allow stress and worry to dictate your life any longer.

Why Do We Worry So Much?

Irving Schattner, LCSW

As a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker with a private practice -- Counseling Center for Growth and Recovery in Delray Beach, Florida -- Irving Schattner, LCSW, specializes in helping persons with Generalized Anxiety Disorders (and other anxiety disorders) overcome their fears to live a life of inner calm, joy, and purpose. Mr. Schattner also offers remote (video) online counseling along with telephonic therapy from the comfort of home.

APA Reference
Schattner, I. (2018). Why Do We Worry So Much?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 24, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/why-do-we-worry-so-much/

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 2 Jun 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Jun 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.