Do you worry often? Do people who know you consider you a worrywart?
It turns out, a lot of people worry. A new research study found that 38 percent of us worry every day. Worry is when you think about actual or potential problems and think of bad things that have or could happen.
Worrying can be a productive mental exercise, but it can cross a line and become excessive. When that happens, worrying can be harmful to your mental health.
Research suggests that consistent worrying can have both short- and long-term effects on your well-being. Simply stated, worrying is a behavior that can steal joy, affecting sleep and decision making.
The study, sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance, collected some interesting information about worrying:
For about half of us, worrying is a way to come up with a solution to a problem. If you come up with a solution and then move on, that's mentally healthy. The study found about a third of the time people quit worrying once they develop a solution.
However, some people still find it hard to stop worrying if they aren’t satisfied with their solution. The researchers found this type of worry can become a habit they dubbed “a process looking for content.”
The researchers said excessive worriers usually have multiple topics they worry about. If something triggers a worry about one topic, it can seep into other topics. Issues can move back and forth like worry wildfires.
Some people can’t control their worrying. Excessive worrying can leave them less likely to find a solution to their problems. Not finding solutions can lead to pathological worrying — in medical terms we call this Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This is condition characterized by excessive worry about everyday concerns, such as finances, work, school, relationships or family. This level of worrying is not mentally healthy. A qualified mental health professional can help individuals with GAD develop effective coping strategies.
Here are some tips to help you transition from unproductive worrying to effective solution development:
If you’re worried about worrying, you may want to explore your stress management options. Stress is proven to have negative consequences for your health. If you have concerns about the mental health of someone you care about, there are understanding and caring professionals you can turn to for help.