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Why do I worry so much?

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Have I turned the iron off? Why’s my son late home from school? Do my friends hate me?

It’s true we all worry to some extent but do it too much and it can colour your whole life, leaving you strung out, unhappy and constantly anxious.

It’s not unusual either. Around 1 in 20 of us experiences excessive worrying – called Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – at some time in our lives.

Anxiety UK says GAD is chronic and inappropriate worrying that lasts many months.

It’s a debilitating and distressing condition but you can learn to overcome it through a whole range of worry-busting strategies.

Emma’s story

Emma has experienced GAD. "I would get locked onto a worry and spend hours going over it in my head, always with the worst case scenario prevailing over any logical explanations. This would then lead to panic attacks, where at one point I was experiencing up to three a day."

She says she worried about anything and everything: "From convincing myself that I have cancer because I have a cough or a tummy ache to thinking that my younger brother has been knocked down by a car because he hasn't arrived home at the time that he said he would."

"When trying to list what makes me worry I think it tends to be based on a few common themes, those being illness, loved ones and self-related things such as whether I deserve to achieve anything, whether I am a good person, whether what I said to an acquaintance was stupid or offensive."

So why do some people worry?

Some people fret over the smallest things and others don’t seem to have a care in the world. Is this just down to their innate personalities or do other factors have a bearing?

There’s some suggestion that there may be a genetic component to worry or at least an early environmental link. Over protective parents may tend to raise worriers or if you worried about your parents as a child you may continue to worry into later life.

"Worry is a learned pattern of behaviour which can come from your family or peers," says cognitive behaviour therapy practitioner Mark Addis.

Emma says her worrying started when she was around the age of 8: "I think I have always had a sort of temperament that allows me to worry about things a little too much, as it has been a common problem since childhood due to low self-esteem."

Patterns of worry

"There are two types of worrying," says Matt Broadway-Horner, Clinical Director of Mindfulness and the City clinics. "Current worry and hypothetical worry."

"If you are an excessive worrier you put them all into one bag and cradle them like a baby, constantly carrying them around with you."

Today in anxiety-panic disorders

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