Sometimes we feel that worry is helpful. We believe it prevents bad things from happening and it can help us to feel more prepared to face challenging situations.
We may find ourselves worrying about hypothetical scenarios. We believe this helps us to feel prepared if/when they happen. In reality, the likelihood of these events occurring is slim and even if we have prepared psychologically for the worst-case scenario, it does not mean we will necessarily be able to cope any better or avoid experiencing a natural emotional response. The problem with hypothetical worry is that it is something we have made up in our own heads, it is internally generated. We spend time worrying, when the reality is the event hasn’t actually happened. There is no need to put your umbrella up until it rains. Spending our lives thinking ‘what if’ increases anxiety levels and takes us away from the here and now.
We can also believe worry can help us to find solutions to problems by thinking of every possible scenario. We feel well-prepared for every eventuality, when in fact worry highlights all the possible ways our solutions might fail, making problem-solving more difficult.
Other types of worry include worry in relation to others and rationalising your worry as a normal way to show you care. Believing if you spend time worrying about someone close to you it’s a way of demonstrating your love. This creates the assumption that those who don’t worry, don’t care or are less loving. We know this to be incorrect as we can love people without worrying about them 24/7.
On occasion, we think worry may positively influence outcomes that ‘because I worried it prevented bad things from happening’. It’s as if worry possesses a magical power that affects the future. In reality, we know that worrying had no impact on the outcome.
We might find that another benefit of worry is that it drives us to avoid fearful situations. That it is an indicator of danger and helps us to detect and cope with threats. This can be inaccurate as worry is a cognitive process based on thoughts rather than evidence and factual information.
These are just a few examples of how we believe worry can help us and keeps us safe, when actually what we know is that worrying does not influence any of these things but increases our level of anxiety and distracts us from living in the present.
Reference: Robichaud, M., Koerner, N. and Dugas, M.J., 2019. Cognitive behavioural treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: From science to practice. Routledge.