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Worry and Anxiety

Chronic Worry Can Lead to Anxiety and Fear

By

Updated April 27, 2009

It’s normal to worry from time to time. Given life’s many unknowns and challenges, worry could be considered a very natural response to many situations. Chronic and all-consuming worry, though, can be troublesome and interfere with our ability to function freely and calmly in our daily lives. More importantly, it can make recovery from panic disorder or agoraphobia more difficult.

In 1967, researchers Liebert and Morris suggested that anxiety has two main dimensions:

  • Worry, which covers the ruminating or repetitive thoughts that are generally focused on potential failure or some other type of negative result and
  • Emotionality, which refers to the excessive physiological arousal, such as sweating, heart racing, etc., that accompany states of anxiety.

Other researchers have studied this two-dimensional model of anxiety and generally concur with the findings of Liebert and Morris, so it’s safe to say that worry is a main component of anxiety.

Worry and Fear

Worry can be normal and even beneficial in certain circumstances. If you’re worried about taking an upcoming exam, you may feel a sense of anxiety. Hopefully, this type of worry will motivate you to study harder. Worry becomes a problem when it is chronic, consuming and leads to anxious avoidance and inhibition, though. In other words, worry becomes fear. It distracts you from important matters, and it can inhibit action or problem solving. Using the above example, let's say you're worried that you won't do well on an upcoming exam. Instead of the exam motivating you to study harder, though, your worry consumes your mind, you can't concentrate on the task at hand and you are unable to prepare properly for the test. Your fear of failure now becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Are Your Worrisome Thoughts a Problem?

You may have a problem with worry if you:

  • Consistently worry about future failures, dangers or other types of negative outcomes
  • Ruminate, or repeat in your mind, the same worry or worries
  • Try to stop worrying by anxious avoidance of certain situations
  • Become paralyzed with worry and are unable to focus on, or implement, constructive solutions to your problems

If you can relate to any of these situations, here are some tips to help you deal with problem worry.

Sources:

Davis, M., Eshelman, E.R. and McKay, M. “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, 5th Edition. 2000 Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

McKay, M., Davis, M. and Fanning P. “Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life. 1997 Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

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  5. Worry and Anxiety - How to Stop Worrying

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