Worry is a normal and healthy reaction to certain situations. However, for some of us, worries grow out of control and we develop related psychological problems. Are feelings of worry impacting upon your life in a negative, unhealthy way?

Psychologists define worry as a state of anxiety and unavoidable mental contemplation over a perceived threat. We feel that something bad is going to happen and this consumes our thoughts. Worry can be healthy; it gives us a prompt to take action if a problematic or dangerous situation is arising. For example, perhaps a normally reliable friend misses a whole day at work and no one has heard from her. In this situation worry can encourage us to check on the well-being of the friend, and provide assistance if it is required. Another example would be if there was snow or ice on the ground, and the decision was taken not to drive somewhere unnecessarily. In these situations, worry is healthy. However, sometimes worry can become excessive. It may grow out of proportion to the actual risk of the feared event occurring, in which case the worry is irrational. If you are experiencing excessive amounts of worry, it may be time to seek help as this can cause significant damage to our lives.

When Worry Becomes Unhealthy

Worry becomes unhealthy when it is out of control and possibly dominating the thoughts of an individual. People can get obsessed by certain worries, even if the thing they fear is very unlikely to actually happen. Those of us who worry excessively often focus on the worst possible outcome, and picture the most harrowing scenarios. This is an unhealthy and pessimistic way of viewing the world. These worries may cause people to experience a lack of sleep, and they might struggle to concentrate at work, in school, or on everyday chores. This is because they are preoccupied and distracted by worrying. People who worry a lot often develop other, related, psychological issues. This includes anxiety disorders such as, general anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). In the case of OCD, people believe that they have to fulfil certain tasks to avoid their worries coming to fruition. Some excessive worriers have reported feeling scared to stop worrying, in case this affects the outcome of the initial worries; they feel compelled to continue worrying. In other cases, the victim is aware that the worrying is damaging, but feels unable to stop. They often have low self-esteem and feel out of control. Both of these mind sets are very unhealthy and psychologically harmful. People may experience panic attacks, or social anxieties. This can be very serious, and results in psychological disorders like agoraphobia. If excessive worrying is allowed to continue and serious psychological problems develop, people can become depressed and may consider self-harm and suicide. If you think your worrying is becoming habitual, excessive or unhealthy, it is vital to seek help as early as possible in order to stop worrying and regain control.

Effects of Worry on Other Relationships

Patters of unhealthy worrying can significantly affect our relationships. Sometimes worry can be centred on the safety and well-being of loved ones. For example, a parent can worry excessively about their child. In this case, it may affect the parenting style used. Perhaps the parent will smother the child, and restrict the activities the child is allowed to take part it. Although the parent has the child’s best interests at heart, this can actually be detrimental to their development. It can cause the child to be overly dependent on the parent, or the child might feel resentful because they desire their own independence and this is impeded. Either way, the relationship has grown unhealthy because of excessive worrying on the part of the parent. Let us now look at a different example. Perhaps an individual has severe and irrational financial worries. They may constantly try to do sums, and calculations in their heads. This will cause them to appear distracted and preoccupied. They might also struggle to enjoy a normal social life, things like eating out with friends, going to the cinema, or for drinks, because they are excessively worried about the cost. They will withdraw socially, and relationships with friends will suffer deeply. If worries are affecting your relationships, it is time to get help.

How Therapy Can Help

Therapy can help us to regain control of our lives, and put worries back into perspective. It can also help to identify if there are other serious psychological health disorders in play. Once this has been established, the recovery process can begin. Do not feel embarrassed or ashamed about needing help; we all do at times. Therapists and counselors will be understanding, and will not betray your trust. Sometimes just a few sessions are needed in order to break habitual worrying. Whereas, in other cases, more long term support is needed to get to the root of the problem. Either way, seeking help and support is vital if you suffer from excessive worries or anxieties. Talk to a professional therapist or counsellor and you will be on the right track.

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