A college roommate of mine who was perhaps even more anxiety-prone than I was at the time, once made an offhand comment about life not being much good without worry.
An outrageous idea, perhaps, but many of us live years habitually worrying – even with no real threat to be concerned about.
If it is too intense it may be considered a mood disorder such as clinical anxiety – but for most people, worry is perhaps more a habit or temperament than a mental health issue.
So, why do we do it?
In her recent Scientific American Mind article Why We Worry, Victoria Stern explains, “Chronic worrying stems from a craving for control. But the more we fret, the less our bodies are able to cope with stress.
“Psychologists believe that worry, defined as a person’s negative thoughts about a future event, evolved as a constructive problem-solving behavior.
“But excessive fretting does more harm than good. Chronic worriers operate under the misperception that their overthinking and attempts at controlling every situation allow them to problem-solve and plan for the future.
“Instead their thought pattern hinders cognitive processing and also causes overstimulation of emotion- and fear-processing areas in the brain.”
Robert Leahy, director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy notes that 38 percent of people say they worry every day, and more than 19 million Americans are chronic worriers.
He is author of The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You.
See the article for his six tips to cope with worry – and to read about studies which suggest potential benefits to worry: