Monday, August 22, 2011

OCD A to Z: W is for Worry

Worry is like leaving your headlights on, and draining the battery. Worry is exhausting and stalls you in the middle of nowhere. The saying that "most of the things you worry about never happen" has circulated for many years. I remember seeing it over 25 years ago when I was in high school. Worry is used as a talisman to ward off disaster. The first time I saw a psychiatrist in the early 90's for my anxiety, he diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder(GAD), which involves worrying about several different areas of life.

You worry too much.
If only you would stop worrying. . .
There's nothing to worry about.

The word worry comes from the Old English wyrgan, which meant to strangle, and evolved to mean "to cause mental distress or trouble." For all the stranglehold worry has held in my life, I couldn't imagine being without it. I felt that it somehow protected me, and that if I stopped worrying, something bad would happen. I hated worrying, but it was a compulsion.

I also felt like I had a responsibility to worry, since if something bad would happen if I stopped, then it would be my negligence. This can conspire with the OCD, and especially with intrusive thoughts, and the fear that if you stop worrying about the meaning of the thoughts, then it says something about your moral character, and so the worry starts up all over again.

What is worry actually doing? I once read that some researchers believe it damps down strong feelings and fears, and even though noxious, serves a function to buffer the fears. But can worry actually ward off danger? Will it guarantee I'm a good person, not a danger to others or myself? If worry can motivate me to actually do something constructive, I can see a use for it, but most of my worrying led to more fear, more exhaustion, more erosion of my life.


  1. That's my brand of OCD, I worry ALL THE TIME about anything and everything. Sometimes I wish I had a routine or ritual instead; those constant thoughts are so draining. I'm getting a handle of it, very slowly but I can see an improvement.


  2. I've seen that "saying" too...and my mind says "YEAH RIGHT! Not good enough. If it COULD happen - you better worry about it to try to prevent the bad thing from happening."

  3. My husband calls me a "worry wart", and yes I do worry. I worry about my children, I worry about finances, I worry about my retirement. I sometimes worry about what people think of me or if I did or said the right or wrong thing.

    I like your comment "If worry can motivate me to actually do something constructive, I can see a use for it" I like that cuz that is how I see my worry...I see it as a motivator to try and help minimize or alleviate problems.

    Interesting post.

  4. I read a quote years ago that has stuck with me. It says, "People who worry spend a lot of time shoveling smoke." This mental image reminds me of the fruitlessness of worrying. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Oh, what a great blog to find! Thank you for writing about this topic--something that really controls most of my life, but I'm working on it. Thank you!

  6. Ever heard of someone say,"Worry no more, it's gonna be fine." These lines could somehow ease our burdens a bit. I think we need someone to say that to us --our support group. I do hope that we'd find these precious people soon.

    If you don't mind, I would like to ask a favor from you. Can you evaluate this counseling site? I need other people's opinions whether their services could deliver well for our mental needs. This could also be a good resource in your future posts. Thank you so much. Have a nice day.

  7. My OCD started when I was just 8 years old, my mother was ill and my father was ill aswell. I developed rituals to give myself a sence of control over a situation I had no control over... I was in constant worry, day and night never a moment of peace. I am now 30 and still have OCD, it has now progressed to health anxiety OCD. Which has proven to be hell for me... I have two kids, and I feel like a horrible mother. I am so wrapped up in my own health obsessed thoughts that I find it hard to be a fun loving mother. Every day of my life it seems I worry about some new boby sensation. Some new symptom, I fear heart attacks, stroks, blood clots, it's even hard to watch TV. I hear all these commercials about hearts and strokes, I feel as if they are talking to me.. I have only had the courage to go to the doctor once for my problems, I am afraid of going, I think they will make my fears a reality... I feel myself going crazy. This last time I have been in this OCD episode for a solid week, maybe with only a handfull of hours of relief. I feel I am reaching my breaking point. I know I need help I just don't know how to reach it... I am scared. My body is just so sensitive to sensation, I know I misread them, something as just being cold or hot can send me into a panic, I will then obsess all day about this one sensation.... WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?? I am just so glad that I found this blog, it really helps to know I am not the only one....

  8. Nikki--I'm glad you are getting a handle on things. Progress may be slow, but never underestimate how much change can happen slowly.

    Anon--I don't know how I missed responding to your comment! I'm glad you found some resonance in this blog. Health anxiety really sucks. If you can find an Exposure therapist, that could really help--it helped me. As did the book Freedom from OCD by Jonathan Grayson--he has a section about health anxiety. CBT can help too, but reasoning about the probability of a disease happening never worked for me, because I always had that one more "what if"--ERP helped me tolerate sensations and uncertainty.

  9. Amazing post! I'm new to your blog, and stumbled across this amazing post. You've pretty much nailed it right on the head. I feel like I have a responsibility to worry. I want to carry all that on my shoulders so that my family won't be in any danger. I know it's ridiculous, is the thing. But I also can't discount that feeling either. I try to block out those negative thoughts, and actually has some great tips, if you're interested. But every day is such a struggle. Thanks for sharing! I'll be back here for sure.

  10. Welcome Phyllis. I think that's a hallmark of OCD type anxieties--the awareness that it seems ridiculous, but the intense feeling that something will go wrong, both at the same time. I hope you keep reading and commenting!