The pressure of persistent worry
Published by: LifeWorks,
All of us worry from time to time. Almost everyone feels a little nervous before giving a speech, taking a test, or driving on a deserted road after dark. Worry serves a useful function when it helps us be prepared and take precautions to avoid danger. But worry is unproductive when it becomes endless fretting about worst-case scenarios that have little chance of happening.
Persistent worry is often referred to as rumination (a kind of obsessive thinking). People who ruminate have difficulty concentrating, and struggle to focus on the here and now. Instead, their minds focus on bad things that have happened or that they think might happen. Worriers typically have several of the following personality traits:
- discomfort with success or fear of failure
- lack of self-confidence
- being overly critical of oneself or others
- fear of confrontation
- preference for isolation
- constant need for reassurance
- fragile self-esteem
- physical pain in response to stress
- inability to make decisions
- gloomy daydreams
- extreme superstition
- high anxiety
- difficulty concentrating
- easily embarrassed
- highly sensitive
When persistent worry is severe, it can interfere with an individual’s ability to work, enjoy life, and sleep, and it may be a symptom of an anxiety disorder, a mental health condition. If left untreated, anxiety disorders can cause serious problems for the people who have them and for their families and co-workers.
One key to coping with these conditions is to realize that they usually do not go away on their own.
According to Dr. Jerrold Rosenbaum, chief of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, typically less than one in five people who are suffering impairing symptoms get help.
“As far as we know, most people who suffer are suffering without support,” says Rosenbaum. People experiencing symptoms of distress and impairment, and who don’t go for care, need to get help somewhere. If they’re in distress they need support of some kind, whether it’s in relaxation or meditation practices or help from a primary care doctor or community resources.