By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Excess worry damages your mental health.
Many people know that worry and rumination can damage their mental health. Those same people may hold contradictory beliefs that they must worry to prevent bad things from happening.
People who hold both positive and negative beliefs about worry are likely to be higher in anxiety, experience more depression, and have impaired physical as well as mental health.
Positive beliefs about worry encourage worrying.
People who are high in worry, often have firm beliefs about the positive consequences of worrying. The way you think about worrying plays a role in creating and maintaining that worry. It’s hard to give up worry, no matter how painful it is, if you have positive beliefs about the benefits of worrying. If you worry a lot, examine your beliefs about worry. You may be expecting worry to play a role in life; it’s not able to fill.
People who worry a lot believe Worry will keep them safe.
People who worry a lot, often have a belief that worrying will make possible future negative events less likely to happen or will prevent those bad results from happening altogether. People who worry a lot expect that worry will reduce the consequences should a bad event happened.
Some worriers believe that worry motivates them.
Humans tend to be loss averse. Most people will work a lot harder to avoid losing something they have then they will work to get an item of equal value. If you worry about flooding, you may buy flood insurance.
When they are unhappy with their current job, a worrier is likely to put more effort into avoiding the loss of the current job then they will put into securing a new better job.
People who frequently worry may believe worry helps analytic thinking.
At the beginning of a project, most people see only probable success. Worriers have the belief that by worrying about what could go wrong they will spot possible dangers.
Frequent worriers believe that they need to control their thoughts.
People who are high in worry often believe that their brains will think dangerous thoughts. Sometimes they confuse the difference between thinking about something and causing it to happen.
Worriers are intolerance of uncertainty.
People who have difficulty accepting that some things are out of their control are at increased risk to develop excessive, pathological worry. People who are high in worry and anxiety believe they are responsible for controlling outcomes. Not being able to predict what will happen coupled with the belief that with enough thought and effort you should be able to control the results, can result in debilitating worry and anxiety.
Worriers use the “as many as I can” worry stop rule.
People who plan focus on the high probability issues. Worriers attempt to anticipate everything that could go wrong. Because of their efforts to anticipate every possible negative outcome, worriers spend a lot of time focused on low probability events and often are unprepared for the things that do occur. People who are low in worry use the “good enough worrying” rule. They worry only about a few high probability outcomes.
Worriers believe they must have cognitive confidence.
People who worry a lot, value high levels of confidence. They’re uncomfortable with uncertainty. Many life events contain large amounts of uncertainty. Worriers try to reduce that uncertainty by turning the possibilities over and over looking for other things that could go wrong.
People who worry a lot tell themselves worry is uncontrollable.
The focusing for worriers is on preventing negative feelings and consequences rather than on preventing worry. If you believe worry is uncontrollable, then it is something you are required to do. Believing worry is uncontrollable, but that you are responsible for controlling what happens leads to superstitious beliefs and may result in repetitive obsessive-compulsive disorder behaviors.
High levels of negative feelings create worry.
Feelings of pessimism, personal inadequacy or incompetence, and personal despair and hopelessness make it more likely they will worry. People who are sad or depressed are likely to worry more.
Worry can be used to avoid facing unpleasant life events.
When you worry, you can stay focused on what might happen, and you don’t have to think about what is taking place in your life today. Studies have demonstrated that people use worry as a way of avoiding unpleasant situations and feelings. By staying “up in your head” in worry, you can block the part of the nervous system that processes feelings.
If you worry a lot, now might be a good time to challenge some of the beliefs you have about worry.
David Joel Miller, MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.) Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.
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