Worrying: Why We Do It

WorryingCan all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? (Luke 12:25-26, New Living Translation)

Worrying is a common part of the human existence. So common, Jesus himself felt the need to address the frivolousness of it. Those who worry understand it is not helpful, but why, then, do we continue to do it? Most actions that are repeated are continued because, in some way, they serve a purpose. What purpose does worrying serve?

Fear

For some, the purpose of worry is to reduce fear.  This fear can be of the unknown or the possibility of something happening (Backus & Chapian, 1981). For example, you may be unsure of where you will work after you graduate. Therefore, you worry about how you will find a job. Maybe your son is going on a trip overseas, and you find yourself worrying about him being robbed or getting lost. The first example discussed is the fear of the unknown while the second example consisted of fear of what may happen. How does worry reduce fear? Through worrying, most people develop a plan of how to resolve the issue he or she is worried about. This plan creates a false sense of control.

The feeling of being in control is powerful. When you feel in control, you feel safe, positive, and prepared. The sense of not being in control is difficult for everyone. However, this false sense of control worrying creates is not real.

Have you ever noticed most situations do not turn out the way in which you worried about them? You find even though you thought you worried about every worst case scenario, there is one you did not think about (Backus & Chapian, 1981). Worrying steals your energy and leaves you exhausted to deal with the real event. While worrying may appear to reduce fear, in actuality, it is a thief of useful resources.

Avoidance

The concept of using worry to be avoidant may be a new idea for many of you reading this article. How can worrying about something make you avoidant?  While you may hate the fact you worry, it may actually be more comforting than facing the problem itself.

Worrying may be so ingrained in your routine, it actually serves a purpose of helping you avoid situations or emotions you believe are too difficult to deal with (Backus & Chapian, 1981). For example, you may allow yourself to worry about your finances instead of creating a budget or thinking about the fight you had with your spouse last night. To truly understand if you use worry to avoid, you will have to be willing to evaluate your motives for worrying.

Worrying not only serves the purpose of avoidance, but it can also lead to learned helplessness. Learned helplessness refers to a false sense of inability to solve problems due to previous failures.  It is learned helplessness because, in actuality, you are not helpless. You have learned to believe you are helpless.

How does this pertain to worrying?

  1. When you worry, you feel a lack of control.
  2. Worrying makes you believe the only way to control the situation is to worry about it.
  3. Worrying may lead to avoidance of events or things that worry you. If you never face the content of your worries, you will never know your capacity to overcome your negative thoughts (Backus & Chapian, 1981).
  4. Avoidance can lead to learned helplessness. If you never take a risk to face the unknown, you start to believe you have no control over things that happen to you. You believe you are helpless. In reality, you have control if only you would try.

The following is an example of this concept:  You have a co-worker who seems rude to you when you ask for help. Whenever you try to ask her a question, her answers are short and sometimes she ignores you. Due to these interactions, you find yourself worrying about what you say to this co-worker. Actually, you find yourself avoiding her. You feel you have no control over the interactions because she is the one being rude. Therefore, you do not try to talk with her about your concerns. You believe you are helpless when, in actuality, you are not. While you cannot control this co-worker’s actions, you can express your frustrations about her reactions to you. This is one way you have control. You have control over addressing the issue or avoiding. You may avoid this situation because confrontation and how your co-worker may react is more frightening than dealing with the worry. In this example, telling yourself you have no control or there is nothing you can do is learned helplessness. You have control if only you would face your fear of talking with your co-worker.


The insight obtained through understanding the purpose worrying serves can be helpful in reducing the worry you experience. You cannot work on something you do not understand. More importantly, knowing the purpose of your worry can help you replace worry with healthier ways to get your needs met.

Rather than worrying to gain control of the situation, take steps toward having an actual level of control. If you have realized worrying helps you avoid, identify the things you are avoiding and why you are avoiding them.  This removes some of their power over you. Jesus not only spoke about the frivolousness of worrying, but He also spoke about the hope He provides:

 “And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” (Luke 12:28, New Living Translation).

If you or someone you know struggles with worrying or anxiety, please contact The Relationship Center. We have professionals who know how to help.

 anxiety counselorsOver 1,700 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 18,500 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Anxiety Counseling at The Relationship Center

Reference

Backus, W., & Chapian, M. (1981). Misbelief in anxiety. Telling yourself the truth (pp. 63-77). Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers.

Getting to Know Your Anxiety Disorder

We all experience anxiety.We all deal with anxiety. At times it can be a good thing; it helps us meet deadlines and to know when we’re in danger. Other times, it can be a nuisance. If you experience anxiety on a regular basis that interrupts your daily activities, you may suffer from an anxiety disorder. The following are a few of the most common anxiety disorders diagnosed in adults.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Someone who has OCD would experience recurring and persistent thoughts about things . For example, the person may obsess about cleanliness or checking on specific things around the house. The second part of OCD consists of compulsions which silence the obsessive thoughts.

Going along with our example, someone may clean a specific part of their body numerous times per day which would dry out their skin and interrupt other responsibilities. Someone who checks things may check to make sure the stove is off 20 times before they leave the house. The thoughts are obsessions while the actions are compulsions. Most importantly, the thinking and actions interrupt daily functioning.

Social Phobia

This disorder is characterized by an intense fear of social situations where one comes into contact with unfamiliar people or scrutiny of others. Due to this fear, a person with social anxiety will avoid these situations in order to reduce the anxiety. Someone with social anxiety will fear that they will act in a certain way that makes others have a poor opinion of them.

For example, someone with social anxiety would avoid their significant other’s work party because they are fearful of being around people they do not know and acting in a way that may make others laugh or question their actions.

Specific Phobia

Someone experiencing this type of anxiety disorder would experience fear or anxiety over a specific object or situation. The specific object or situation almost always produces fear or anxiety that makes you actively seek to avoid the object or situation. Characteristics of a specific phobia are as follows:

  • The fear or anxiety is extreme compared to the actual danger that can be caused by the object or situation.
  • The fear or anxiety has lasted for at least 6 months
  • The fear or anxiety causes impairment in your everyday functioning.

An example of a specific phobia would be someone with an extreme fear of needles. Someone who has a specific phobia with needles would avoid them at all cost. They would avoid hospitals, doctors offices, tattoo parlors, any place where they would come in contact with needles. As you can see, this would interrupt their functioning due to being unable to see a doctor without extreme anxiety. The person may fear death or extreme sickness if stuck with a needle, and they may have to be held down at the doctor’s office.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

With this disorder, a person has difficulty controlling excessive anxiety over a number of events or activities. Physical symptoms of GAD include:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle Tension
  • Sleep Disturbance

The key to this disorder is an excessive amount of anxiety. Someone with GAD would worry excessively about finances, losing their job, the car breaking down, whether they are being a good parent, and coping with difficulties that arise.

Panic Disorder

This disorder is characterized by experiencing unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort that intensifies within minutes. Someone suffering from a panic attack may experience some of the following physical symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating and shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Chills or heat sensations,
  • Numbness
  • Fear of losing control or dying
  • Feelings of being detached from oneself

Another part of this disorder consists of fear of having another panic attack or a change in behavior due to the panic attack.

Agoraphobia

Someone experiencing this disorder would experience anxiety or fear about at least two of the following situations: using public transportation, being in open spaces, being in enclosed spaces, being in a crowd, or being outside of their home alone. The person would avoid these situations because they are fearful that escape from any one of them may be impossible or assistance may not be available if panic symptoms occur.

These situations almost always produce anxiety or fear causing them to be actively avoided. Also, the fear or anxiety is exaggerated in regard to the actual danger present in the situation. These symptoms typically last for at least 6 months and interrupt the person’s functioning.

For example, someone may be fearful of crowds and being outside their home alone. They would avoid leaving their home and being in crowded places. If they came in contact with a crowded place or were alone outside their home, they would experience extreme anxiety and fear. As you can see, this would make it very difficult to hold a job or even shop for everyday items.

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Anxiety disorders are often co-morbid (meaning they happen alongside other disorders) like eating disorders (See How Anxiety Fuels Eating Disorders).

If you believe you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, please seek the opinion of a mental health professional. We have many professionals at The Relationship Center that are experienced in diagnosing and treating anxiety disorders. Please call us today.

 

anxiety counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Anxiety Counseling at The Relationship Center

Reference

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.