Chronic Worrying: It's all about control
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Lorraine Green, MBACP (Reg)
3rd September, 2013
Worrying about stuff is a normal part of everyday life. Most of us have a constant stream of background noise going on in our heads...
- Did I remember to lock the back door?
- Will this bus get me to work on time?
- What if I fail my driving test?
- Are the kids OK?
- What do I get my mother-in-law for Christmas?
Worrying serves a useful function; it motivates you into action, it alerts you that something needs taking care of, or prepares you for a possible future threat. Worrying is a bit like problem-solving, often it’s a way of trying to find a solution to an uncertain situation. The process of worrying can give a sense of ‘taking control’ – the problem is we often worry about situations which we have very little control over, therefore making the entire anxiety ridden process null and void.
But why do some people worry more than others?
Well, some studies suggest that there is a gender divide; women worry more than men. I’m not entirely sure this is true. Societal norms may make men feel it’s a weakness to show signs of stress, so men tend to suppress what they’re feeling (a possible link to why suicide rates are higher amongst men than women) whereas women are perceived as ‘emotional’ and therefore given more ‘permission’ to voice their anxieties.
Of course, regardless of gender, people react differently because each person has a different belief system and ways of interpreting the same event. A person’s past experiences may also influence their interpretation and reaction to events. Or, as recent neuroscientists have suggested; are some people just born worriers? Some longitudinal studies have suggested that a person’s temperament plays a part. It’s been identified that the amygdala, a part of the brain which responds to new situations and outside threats, may be hyper reactive in people who worry a lot. However, other studies have shown it’s not just about genes – as two people can have the same brain reaction, but interpret what they are feeling differently.
What is clear is that for some people excessive worrying can become debilitating. This is generally labelled GAD – General Anxiety Disorder.
Chronic worriers over-think problems in an attempt to control the situation. However, constantly gnawing at the problem hinders rational cognitive processing and causes overstimulation prompting the brain to go into fear processing. To put it in more straight forward terms; you just stop thinking rationally.
However, with professional guidance you can learn to take control of your inner monologue, become mindful of the repetitive negative thought patterns and more aware of the effect it has on internal feelings and external behaviour.
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