Excessive and uncontrollable worry – ‘I can’t stop worrying about everything’

The possibilities went around and around and around. My thoughts were an exhausting, repetitive worry-loop, trying to anticipate events I couldn’t control and which, in fact, didn’t exist… What if, what if, what if… It became the first thing I thought about every morning and the last thing I thought about at night. I thought about it on the bus, at work, when I was out. I thought about it when I woke up at 4 a.m. for a piss… It always seemed that if I could just think about it a bit more, just think it through one more time, I’d be able to work out a way of proving to myself that nothing could go wrong. But I never quite could.”James O’Loghlin, 'A Month of Sundays'
We all experience worry from time to time, but for some people worry can start to take over their life. You might find that worries dominate your thoughts. If it does, you probably worry about a range of different topics, such as: your performance at work or school; your health; the safety of family members; whether or not you remembered to do things; what other people think of you; catastrophes such as earthquakes or climate change; the fact that you worry so much. And the list goes on.

Over time, excessive worry starts to have an impact on the rest of your life. Perhaps your ability to concentrate and focus your attention is compromised, affecting your work or study. You may find that you are constantly restless or agitated and it’s impossible to relax. Being worried like this all the time is exhausting and you may find that you often feel tired or that your sleep is disturbed. For many people, this level of worry leads you to be impatient, cranky and irritable. Or maybe you find that your body is in a constant state of physical tension, causing stomach aches, headaches, teeth grinding or irritable bowel syndrome. Doctors and psychologists sometimes use the term Generalised Anxiety Disorder to describe people who experience chronic and excessive worry.

 ‘It’s just how I am’

‘I’m a worrier. I’ve been like this all my life. My mum was like this too. It is just how I am.’ For many people who experience chronic and excessive worry, it’s all they have ever known. It is almost like the worry is a friend, a part of your identity. Worry somehow keeps you safe or prevents harm, despite the fact that it makes you feel awful and limits your life. If worry has been your so-called friend for a long time, it can be difficult to believe that this could ever change, that you could live a life where worry doesn’t dominate. But there are effective treatments that can really help you put worry in its place.

 Things you can do

  • Start looking after yourself. It’s very common for people with excessive worry to put themselves last and spend their time looking after others. Make sure you take time to de-stress in whatever way works for you.
  • Develop some healthy sleep routines by following some sleep hygiene rules
  • Have a worry diary that you write your worries down in once a day only. If it is an actual problem that you can influence, then make a plan how to address it.
  • Talk to a psychologist. We have strategies to help you change the way that worry is dominating your life.

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