Compulsive worry is a very common problem worldwide. People tend to worry and ruminate about their problems until they find a certain solution. Compulsive worriers sometimes think that it is their duty to worry and when things are going well, they are not comfortable. They tend to manufacture worries and also expect their family members to worry too. Worries are always related to some future unwanted event. Such worrying can negatively impact the welfare of the person and also lead to unhappiness. Worrier type people perceive that serious negative possibilities are at stake. They feel pressured to prevent such negative outcomes. They feel compelled to worry incessantly and do not allow themselves to be happy until they have resolved the issue. It is a kind of emotional strangulation. It can cause certain damage if it becomes chronic.
How do we deal with this kind of compulsive worry? According to Dr. Cohen,there are four steps to address these worries.
1. Identify Your Distortions
Worriers tend to have so many cognitive distortions in their thinking like, magnification, labeling, over estimation, emotional reasoning, minimization, filtering, and self blame. These distortions have been discussed in detail in another blog post on this website on Automatic thinking and self talk. According to Dr. Cohen, there are three more errors in their thinking:
1. Losing control anxiety, 2. self condemnation, and 3. dutiful perfectionism. Worriers tend to think that they might fail to control the situation until they have found a certain solution to their problem. They worry that something awful will happen if they lose control so they tend to entertain worrier types of thoughts continuously. They also tend to engage in self condemnation, meaning that they would be bad persons if they have it let happen. Dutiful perfectionism refers to the tendency of the worriers to feel that it is their moral duty to keep worrying until they have found the best solution to their problems.
Dutiful worries arise from not knowing what will happen in the future. The uncertainty about the future fuels dutiful worrying. So the first step is to identify the fallacy in your thinking when you are worrying.
2. Dispute the Distortion in Your Thinking
Once you have identified the distortion, the next step is to refute and dispute the fallacy in your thinking. Try to recognize that the above mentioned three fallacies are counterproductive to your well being. When the worriers demand certainty, they need to realize that things can never be absolutely certain and there is a possibility that things can happen even when you have tried to control all the angles of the situation. No matter how much time you spend ruminating, there will always be a certain element of uncertainty so it is not good to demand perfectionism. Often worriers tend to magnify things and also catastrophize about them so try to examine your catastrophic thinking. Recall few events that you catastrophized but it actually did not happen. Do not try to blow things out of proportion. Similarly when worriers engage in self condemnation, they also tend to believe that they are bad persons. It is a mistake when you believe that you are bad just because you made a mistake. No human being is perfect. We mess up so stop telling yourself that you are a bad person if you failed to prevent something bad from happening because you did not worry enough.
The world is imperfect and things happen and we don’t have any control over them. When you keep yourself suspended in a state of worrying until you have found the perfect solution, you don’t do yourself any favor. Dutiful perfectionism is impossible to be realized. It is counterproductive and can create emotional stress. When you are under stress, the blood diverts to larger muscle groups and away from brain, causing the brain to have less oxygen. This, in turn impairs your thinking and reasoning capacity.
So fretful worrying does no good to your health and well being.
3. Use Rational Approach
It is wise to apply rational antidotes to counter your faulty thinking process. This is better than ruminating on obsessive worries, magnifying the danger and try to control the events which are beyond your control. You will need to adopt a realistic and rational perspective. You will need to have courage to face your problems and you will need to realize that you have value as a human being as opposed to engaging in self condemnation. You can slowly try to overcome your self- condemnation tendency and aim toward having a better self esteem by unconditionally loving yourself. As you develop more realistic expectations about yourself and the world, you will be able to replace your dutiful perfectionism with peace and tranquility. This way you will facilitate values like courage, unconditional self respect, and serenity. These values help you reduce the tendency to engage in dutiful worrying and making errors in your thinking. Furthermore, this will also reduce the stress and set a standard of excellence in improving your ability to face the challenges of life.
4. Use Your Willpower to Cease the Tendency to Worry
Once you have developed the moral virtues of courage, unconditional self respect, and serenity, the final step is to exercise your willpower to overcome dutiful worrying. In this step, you will need to work on your thoughts and behaviors. You will need to make a conscious effort to divert your attention to productive things as opposed to worrying about problems. You will need to fight the internal struggle by purposely not acting on your irrational thoughts and use your reasoning capacity. Your goal should be to stop worrying and not feel guilty about it. The more you try to exercise your willpower, the better you will become. Dutiful worriers tend to be self sacrificing. They tend to do things for others but neglect themselves. Enjoy life and have fun. Go out and do something you enjoy. Do not feel guilty if you indulge in doing something special for yourself.
In this way when you are compulsive worrier and you use the above four steps, you will be able to reduce the intensity and frequency of your anxiety. You will learn new ways of dealing with your stressors.
Hypnosis can also help reduce symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.
The Dutiful Worrier, How to stop compulsive worry without feeling guilty by Eliott D. Cohen, PH. D