The Psychological Effects of Worrying

A little worrying is only natural. It keeps us safe. Without any worry, we’d never anticipate potential consequences, problems, or dangers, and we wouldn’t be prepared to handle them. If you don’t worry that it might be cold outside, you won’t take a coat. If you don’t worry that you could get into a car accident, you won’t wear your seatbelt or drive carefully. Most of the time our worries are automatic. We don’t notice them, and they don’t cause negative interference in our lives. Excessive worrying, however, can be more harmful than helpful. Worrying is a product of stress and anxiety. If you experience worrying too often, the psychological effects can be difficult to handle, sometimes severely so.

Addiction and Worry

Worry is a common, significant concern for people who abuse substances. Sometimes a person worries so much that they begin to use drugs or alcohol to reduce their feelings of stress and anxiety. On the other hand, addicts and alcoholics in recovery, especially early recovery, often find that constant, excessive worrying is a big problem for them, and they may have a very hard time dealing with it. This is why the Serenity Prayer is so important to people in AA or NA; “Accept the things you cannot change,” is a direct response to feeling of worry. But addict or not, worrying has huge psychological implications.

Automatic Negative Thought

Excessive worrying really affects a person’s daily life and everything they do. If you experience continual stress and anxiety and worry about the problems you perceive, your entire outlook on life can change dramatically. Automatic negative thought is something people who worry a lot will begin to experience. Automatic negative thought is just as it sounds – in any situation, you automatically see things in a negative light. With automatic negative thought, you immediately jump to the downside of things and imagine the worst scenario possible. It becomes very difficult for you to think beyond your worry and imagine a positive outcome. It’s easy to see how this can have an big impact on your life and your success; if you can’t see the hope or positivity, you won’t reach your full potential in any situation.

Mood Disorders

Too much worrying can cause you to become depressed. Similar to the relationship between addiction and worry, worrying is also something that many people experience because of depression or a mood disorder; it can be a constant battle to stop worrying and be happy and mentally healthy. Excessive worrying also frequently causes people to be very irritable, because of raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol. People who worry a lot can be easily agitated and have difficulty communicating with others or maintaining healthy relationships. This is not to mention the physical effects of elevated levels of cortisol, like high blood pressure.


It’s very common for people who worry to get nightmares. When something is so strongly on your mind, your subconscious will manifest your worries in your dreams. Nightmares can actually be terrifying, and they can make it difficult to sleep at night. Lack of sleep only leads to more stress, and the cycle of worrying will only continue to repeat itself. If you worry too much, it’s imperative that you seek out ways of dealing with your worries. In essence, worries are self-fulfilling prophecies. You need to be proactive. For addicts who worry about relapse or other issues, like money management or feels of guilt and shame, seeking out help in learning how to cope is literally a matter of life or death.

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