Can you see a difference in the things you worry about than what most people worry about?
Do you often find yourself mired in a situation that you can’t find a way out of?
Do you worry so much that you find it difficult to relax?
When things are going well for you, do you find yourself looking for something to worry about?
Do you worry almost constantly about a catastrophic event happening?
Does worrying cause distress in your everyday life?
When you worry, do your eating disorder symptoms get worse (such as bingeing/purging, self-starvation, compulsive exercise or an increase in body hatred)?
What is “normal worrying” as opposed to chronic worrying or anxiety?
People who constantly worry about situations – real or not – are sometimes called, “worrywarts.” Webster’s Dictionary defines worrywart as, “a person who tends to dwell unduly on difficult or troubles.”
You may be a worrywart if you can answer “Yes” to most of the questions above.
It’s normal to be worried sometimes, but most people can shake the worry and enjoy life. Others find it so difficult to quit worrying that it begins to affect every area of life – job, relationships, physical and mental well-being and more.
Worry is constantly thinking about something troublesome or bothersome. When worry is taken to extreme, you become non-productive and highly stressed. Sometimes worry can cause such distress that you’re paralyzed to do anything about it.
For example, if you’re worried about a deadline on a business project you must complete and the date looms nearer and nearer, you may get extremely stressed about the outcome – especially if you’ve done nothing to bring the project nearer to completion.
You may experience a sort of “paralyzed” state where you’re constantly thinking about the project, but are helpless to resolve it. As the stress continues to grow, you may become physically distressed and develop many problems associated with stress.
Sometimes worry can actually encourage you to complete a goal or task or change a bad situation. For example, if you’re worried about recent bad grades, you may make a study plan or go for tutoring.
If you do nothing about the worry you’re experiencing, worry can begin to take its toll in many ways. You may suffer physical aches and pains and your mind may be so focused on the worrying that you can’t concentrate on how to solve the problem.
Or your eating disorder symptoms can “kick in” to try to soothe some of the worrying. But as you know, this doesn’t solve the problem at its root, and experiencing an increase in your eating disorder symptoms can be equally distressing.
How Worry Can Negatively Affect Your Life
If you’ve determined you’re a worrywart because worry is interfering with your life, you should know the ways that worry can negatively affect your life and cause problems far worse than mental anguish.
When you worry to the extent that it interferes with your daily life and the worry becomes exaggerated or unfounded, you may be suffering from GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder).
GAD is usually an ongoing, rather than a temporary type of tension that occurs when you worry excessively and suffer more anxiety than most people. You may be worrying about health, relationships, work, money or a number of other matters – even if there are no reasons to worry.
Most people with GAD know that what they’re experiencing in the way of anxiety is much worse than the situation calls for. You can’t seem to shake off the feeling of impending doom.
If you’re suffering from GAD, you may suffer from sleep disorder, anxiety attacks and have trouble socializing. Physical symptoms might include headaches, tense muscles that lead to pain, shaking or twitching or excessive sweating.
You may have shown symptoms of GAD during childhood or adolescence, but it can occur at any time during adulthood – often triggered by a traumatic or stressful situation. It often comes on gradually and affects more women than men.
People with eating disorders are also unfortunately more prone to anxiety or its sister condition, depression.
Worry can affect both mind and body in the following negative ways:
Circulate more stress hormones in the bloodstream – When stress hormones circulate in your body for a long period of time, a toxic effect occurs. The stress on the glands, heart and nervous system may lead to such health problems as ulcers in the stomach, stroke and heart attack.
Cause muscle tension which can lead to aches and pains -- When you’re anxious or worried, your body tenses in response (similar to the “fight or flight” feelings). This tension can weaken your legs, causing shaking sensations, cause back pain and headaches. You might also suffer from diarrhea or constipation from the muscle tension.
It can lead to resurgence or worsening of eating disorder symptoms – although it may seem random that you are purging more, or having more “fat” feelings, or becoming more extreme in restricting, this is actually your body’s way of trying to soothe the anxiety and give you a break. The symptoms themselves, however, often cause distress and dangerous physical complications.
Disturbs focus on any task at hand – Worry about a deadline makes it very difficult for you to concentrate on the project and get it done. Your peace of mind is shattered and the negative thoughts permeate your brain and shut it down except for the worrying thoughts.
May lead to depression – Letting worry take the forefront of running your life may lead to depression that’s difficult to shake. You could even become paranoid about other people in your life and feel sorry for yourself most of the time.
Changes or loss of libido – When you worry, it’s difficult to let your mind and body relax enough to have enjoyable sex. Your health may also suffer and be a deterrent to fulfilling sex.
Your immune system may suffer – Your immune system is important to fight infections and diseases. Science has proven that anxiety and stress lowers the effectiveness of your immune system – two side effects of excessive worry.
Unable to absorb vitamins and nutrients -- When you worry, you’re likely to become neglectful of diet and exercise. This can speed the aging process in your body because you become dehydrated and your muscles and brain aren’t receiving what they need to work properly.
Insomnia may affect your health – Lack of sleep is one of the most serious side effects of worry. Insomnia leads to even more worry about not getting enough sleep – and on it goes, becoming a vicious and unhealthy cycle.
You may think there’s no way around worry and that it’s impossible to stop, but there are ways to alleviate worry and live a life that will keep you happy, healthy and (almost) worry-free.
7 Tips to Stop Worry in Its Tracks
When your anxiety and worry seems to have no solution and you feel as if you’ve lost control, it’s time to take decisive action to prevent the worry habit from causing physical and mental harm.
You may have tried talking to yourself about how futile worrying is – or you may also have tried distracting yourself. Nothing works and sometimes what you try makes the worry even more persistent.
Some of the tried and true techniques which may lead to solutions for worry include self-help and professional therapy. Self-help techniques provide you with tools you can use to force negative and worrisome thoughts out of your mind.
Below are some worry-busting tips that may help in your quest to avoid the anxiety that worry brings. If you use and practice them consistently, they can also help to alleviate eating disorder symptoms.
Give yourself a specific time to worry – This technique may seem contrary to avoiding worry, but trying to stop worrying by avoiding certain thoughts sometimes makes you focus more on the thought.
Postponing your worry session to a certain time means that you’re giving yourself permission to worry – but at a later time which is chosen by you. You’re in control. As you continue with this method, you’ll begin to realize that you’re more in control than you thought.
Know that uncertainty is an inescapable part of life – Worriers tend to be unable to tolerate uncertainty or doubt about any situation. They want to be able to predict an outcome and prevent bad things or outcomes from happening.
Be present in the moment with your worry –When you worry, you’re focused on future happenings. But, when you become mindful of your worries about the future, you focus your attention back to the present time.
In fact, stating out loud to yourself “I feel worried” has actually been shown in studies to decrease worry. Just saying it instead of avoiding it is like releasing a pressure valve.
This technique lets you observe your worry pattern as its happening and choose to let them go. It helps you acknowledge the anxiety you’re feeling and observe them from someone in the present rather than the future.
Evaluate the problem and determine if it’s solvable – Even the act of mulling over the worry problem in your head can distract you from the feelings of anxiety. You’re attempting to solve the problem rather than simply worrying about it.
You can ask yourself if the problem is a concrete one – that you’re facing right now – or if it’s imaginary (a what-if situation). Your concern may be realistic, but if it’s imaginary you can prepare to do something about it.
Evaluating your problems help you realize if you’re dealing with emotions or a problem you can work on to solve.
Challenge your worries as they appear – Much of your worry thoughts may stem from what is known as “cognitive distortions.” This means that you’re distorting reality in your mind and making it look negative or scary.
Even though you know intellectually that what you’re worrying over isn’t likely to happen or isn’t based on facts, you can’t seem to break the habit of these types of worries.
By identifying the worry and challenging its validity, you’ll gradually develop a perspective which will help you separate the irrational thoughts from true reality.
Stop the sense of urgency – Worriers tend to think they must solve a negative problem immediately or something horrible will happen. One of the best methods to combat that sense of urgency is to focus on the present.
To take your mind off the invisible time frame, learn how to turn your focus onto something else – exercise, listening to music or watching a movie are good ways to stop feeling the urgency of worry.
Learn some mental and physical relaxation methods – To help you through the most anxious moments of your worry cycle, take some time and effort to learn how to physically and mentally relax by learning certain techniques.
These techniques for relaxation can be as simple as deep breathing or more challenging methods such as meditation, Tai Chi, imagery or muscle relaxation.
The above techniques can only be effective if you practice them consistently. For some chronic worriers, these techniques may not work because you’ve gotten to the point of being a chronic worrier.
Professional therapy may be necessary if your worry patterns have progressed to the point where you can’t function properly within a job, relationship or other major areas of life.
Finally, if your eating disorder symptoms have escalated in order to soothe the worry, you may need more support and help to figure it all out and get relief. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – usually with the guidance of a qualified therapist who is trained in treating anxiety AND eating disorders, you can learn to tame anxiety and your E/D symptoms.