Straight Up Guide To Worrying
These guides were born out of Noah and Christine’s frustration with overly complicated and jargon-filled articles, newsletters, books, and therapy websites. Our mission is to create clear and practical guides in order to learn, grow from challenges, and lead more meaningful and impactful lives.
Worrying is a compulsive, maladaptive, and exhausting mental activity that masquerades as productive planning and problem-solving. It can drain you of precious time and energy, and deplete your mood and spirit.
Simply put, worries are thoughts that suggest something bad about the future. They could be something such as “What if my child doesn’t get into college?” or “What if there is a lot of traffic when we leave for our trip?” Worrying typically takes the form of “What if…?” followed by the mind’s attempt to answer some question about the future. Worry seeks certainty in an uncertain world, which is why it never finds a satisfying answer.
People worry about work, school, relationships, or about how much they worry. Worries can be about just about anything, but they are always about something bad. In other words, we don’t worry or think about how great something could be. Worry has a close cousin in the form of rumination, which are worries about the past such as “Why am I such a loser?” or “Why did I do that?”
Who worries? Women worry more than men, but it affects both genders. People with in higher economic classes tend to worry more than those with less. Approximately 5.7 percent of the population suffers from excessive worrying, AKA generalized anxiety disorder.
Why is worrying a big deal? Excessive worrying can have a real negative impact on your life. All that thinking and mental churning can leave you irritable, fatigued, and even depressed. Depression is often excessive worry in disguise.
The most important thing to know about worrying is that it is a type of thinking, not feeling. Unlike other forms of anxiety, worrying is not the result of a fight or flight response. In fact, studies have shown that people’s anxiety actually goes down when they’re worrying. Worrying is actually a type of avoidance – a way of not feeling our feelings.
People who worry are usually convinced at some level that their worrying is a worthwhile activity, that it’s productive in some way. It seems like a reasonable expenditure of energy – like it’s actually doing something. They become “fused” with their thinking, and have trouble detaching from it and seeing it for what it is – namely a big waste of time. Worrying may seem like problem-solving, but it’s actually problem-perpetuating. It makes things worse by reinforcing the worries and getting you caught in a vicious cycle.
What to do about worrying? The first step is becoming mindful enough to recognize worries for what they are. Once you can recognize a worry, you can effectively detach from it and not let yourself get hooked by them. The second step is to dig a little deeper and find out what feelings all the worrying is allowing you to avoid. The more we can allow ourselves to feel them, the less worrying becomes necessary.
Christine Izquierdo and Noah Laracy are the co-founders of Straight Up Treatment, an anxiety disorder specialty treatment center. Straight Up Treatment utilizes a variety of cognitive-behavioral approaches to treat anxiety-based conditions such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Social and Performance Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Depression, and Generalized Anxiety.
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