Pathological worrying – see if you do it

09 June, 2020 / Mateusz

Fear, anxiety, care or concern are normal states and emotions that we deal with in everyday life. However, they can go beyond healthy boundaries and turn into pathological worry. How do you know which type of behaviour you are dealing with and how to deal with it?

To understand pathological worry, imagine standing in a messy room, with a head full of chaotic thoughts, and suddenly the oxygen is depleting. You are becoming weaker by the minute, you stumble over objects left on the floor, in a panic trying to find a matching door key in a bunch of dozens of other keys. This illustrates the phenomenon of unhealthy worry, which unfortunately applies to ever-increasing societies and people.

Why am I doing this to myself?

In pathological worry, there is usually a moment of reflection and the questions like, “why can’t I get out of this maze of thoughts?”, “why can’t my mind stop?”, and “why do I do this to myself?”. Why is the human mind so susceptible to stress overload? Worry is the cognitive component of anxiety, feeding and strengthening it, and even more importantly, worrying is fuelled by fear.

We often explain our own worries by referring to uncertain situations, unusual events or momentary doubt. You may also think (or hear from others) that it’s just a matter of our bad attitude. Remember, however, that it is fear and anxiety, rather than your attitude that is responsible for such action of your mind.  In this psychological state of fear and anxiety, ideas, desires and hope are unable to thrive. Therefore, you need to learn about these types of mental patterns to be able to deactivate them.

Why am I really worried?

According to the work of Dr Freeston from the University of California, in the majority of people, pathological thinking has two main causes:

– You are worried because you are creating in your head a future scenario with negative consequences or events to happen. You are afraid that you will disappoint someone, you will not meet expectations, someone will think of you unfriendly or you will lose something. It’s a spiral of thoughts that is easy to get lost in. In the end, we can think about what may go wrong in an endless loop.

– The second reason for worry is quite interesting. We usually believe that worrying about something makes us more responsible, that spending hours thinking about the situation could help control it or find a solution. In fact, this is not the case at all, because exaggerated worries only fuel anxiety.

How can I help myself?

Specialists talk about three keys to finding peace in pathological worry:

  1. Conversation – verbal strategies are some of the simplest but also the most effective methods of eliminating excess stress. Instead of suppressing visions about problems in your head, share them with someone close to you who can offer an opinion from a completely different perspective.

  2. Balance – you need to try to get emotional balance so that the brain has the chance to oxygenate and begin to contemplate new solutions. When ideas start flowing into your head again, fear and anxiety will lose their strength. Train mindfulness, work on body awareness and sensorics (e.g. with the help of a weighted blanket) and ensure proper breathing. These strategies will definitely work.

  3. The third step is to stop obsessing with the problem and focus on solving it. It doesn’t matter how you got into the situation. Therefore, you should not bother trying to predict what may or may not happen. The most important thing is to define the problem objectively and come up with a coping strategy.

Finally, we have a quote that may change your point of view a bit:

“It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there’s nothing you can do about them, and why worry about things you do control? The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized.” 

Wayne W. Dyer