When worry gets in the way

Everyone worries to some extent. It would be odd if we didn’t. But there’s a point at which worry stops being helpful, and instead starts to get in the way of living life. If we are constantly worrying about the 'what ifs', and waiting for things to go wrong, it really does drain the joy out of everything. The simplest of things can become full of effort leaving us exhausted.


Anxiety is a word used a lot, but it’s a bit of a catch-all type umbrella term. There are lots of different types of anxiety, and excessive worry is just one of them, and the most common one. Lots of people when asked would describe themselves as having always worried.

Unfortunately, over time, the number of things that someone worries about, and the lengths that they go to because of their worry will keep increasing. Sometimes this is gradual, bit by bit, where we almost don’t notice how bad it’s got. Sometimes life-changing events like becoming a parent or taking on a job with more responsibility can accelerate this. 

Why do we worry?

There are two parts of our thoughts – the rational and the emotional. The rational part of you might know that worry isn’t helpful, that it’s getting in the way, that it’s exhausting you, and stopping life being fun. But the other part of your brain is choosing to engage with the worries and believing the process to be helpful in some way. 

Common reasons for continuing to worry include:

  • worry will make me more prepared
  • worry helps me problem-solve
  • worry means I care
  • worry helps protect me
  • worry helps prevent bad things from happening
  • if I don’t worry then I’ll miss something 

When is it too much worry?

Of course, we do need to have some worry and, at times, worry can be useful. But the amount of time we spend worrying needs to make sense for the situation. 

A common analogy we use in therapy when we think about worry is one of insurance. If you were offered insurance on your phone for £1 would you take it? How about £10? £100? £1000? The risk of something happening hasn’t changed, but we draw a line of the cost we are willing to spend to protect against something that might not happen. The same theory applies to worry. How much time is the cost you’re willing to spend for a situation that might not happen?

Different types of worry

No worrier is the same as another worrier. The topics of their worries will vary. Some people will focus their worries on one or two topics, for some the topics change over the years, for others they worry about anything and everything that’s possible to worry about. 

But it's helpful to distinguish between two types of worries – those of real situations that have actually happened, versus hypothetical worries about something that likely will never happen. This helps us in deciding when the worry is helpful or not, and how much worry makes sense.

Therapy for worry

If you recognise yourself in some of this, if you notice you are a worrier, therapy can help. CBT in particular has proven to be really helpful in breaking this cycle. If you’d like to find out more about how I can help you, head over to my profile and look out for my future articles here on Counselling Directory, providing further help and understanding on topics about anxiety.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Middlewich, Cheshire, CW10 9AS
Written by Hannah Paskin, CBT Therapist
Middlewich, Cheshire, CW10 9AS

Hannah Paskin is a CBT Therapist specialising in helping people overcome Anxiety once and for all. She is known as 'The Straight Talking Therapist' and is happy to guide people through therapy when they are not sure what the problem is, why, or what they want from therapy.
Based in Cheshire and Online.
Find out more at hannahpaskintherapy.co.uk

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