Compulsive worrying is a problem for many people

A certain amount of worrying is a normal part of life, especially these days with so much change and uncertainty. But some people just can’t stop worrying which causes them to experience anxiety which, if not managed. can develop into an anxiety disorder.


Worry can be defined as:

  • allowing one’s mind to dwell on difficult, troubling, and potentially bad, unpleasant, and/or harmful things
  • preoccupation with thoughts about uncertain or unpleasant events


"I’ve lived through a thousand tragedies, none of which actually happened."
~ Mark Twain

There are two general types of worries

  • Worries about current problems. These relate to a real situation, that we can do something about. E.g. “What if I don’t have enough money to pay the bills?”, “What if I don’t finish this project on time?”, “What if my argument with my mother means we never speak again?”
  • Worries about hypothetical situations. E.g. “What if the flight I’m taking to Auckland tomorrow, crashes?”; “What if I get cancer when I’m older?”)

One of the main differences between these two types of worries is the amount of control you have over the situation.

With worries about current problems, you usually have some direct control over the situation. They are things you can do something about. You can decide what to do, when to do it and how. For example, you can manage your finances, work on your project, or resolve an argument with your mother.

In contrast, with worries about hypothetical situations you have almost no control, so there is very little, if anything that you can do to change the situation, but you can learn to react differently.

Hypothetical situations drive those "What if...?" thoughts about some terrible event that might happen. "My partner is late home from work - what if they've had a serious road accident?" "There's a traffic jam - what if I lose my job because I'm late arriving at work?"



These thoughts are usually accompanied by images or mind movies showing what would happen in those worst-case scenarios. In most cases you are overestimating the odds of the imagined situation happening.

The belief that worrying benefits you in some way

However unpleasant the experience of compulsive worrying may be, when you've been used to worrying over long periods of time it can become a bit like a security blanket. You may even believe that worry benefits you in some way. Those beliefs can be negative or positive:

Negative beliefs about worry:

  • I might lose all control
  • The worry will drive me crazy

Positive beliefs about worry:

  • Worrying keeps me (and others) safe
  • Worrying means I'm a caring person
  • Worrying motivates me
  • Worrying helps me to be prepared and to problem solve
  • Worrying protects me from negative emotions
  • Worrying means I'll cope better when the worst happens.

These positive beliefs tend to be negatively reinforced because the imagined feared event doesn't happen, and we therefore don't discover that our beliefs are not true. And as long as we continue to believe that worrying is helpful or useful in some way, we are going to want to keep worrying.

Worrying leads to anxiety

Worrying leads to anxiety and excessive worry is a common symptom in anxiety disorders, and is the central feature of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

So, if you want to reduce your anxiety and help avoid an anxiety disorder, you need to learn how to manage your worrying.

Managing your worrying

In order to manage worry, you first need to become an expert at recognizing your worries. While you may think that you’re already a “worry expert” since you do it every day, interestingly, most worriers when asked, either can’t remember their worries, or can only recall the one or two most common worries they have.

Worry diary

The best way to start noticing and recognizing your worries is to begin recording them in a worry diary. Use your worry diary to write down what you are worrying about at set times, usually 2 - 3 times a day is good, recording the trigger for your worry and your anxiety level.

Evaluate your worries

Once you’ve collected a couple of days’ worth of worries in your worry diary, you can evaluate your worries to determine which ones are current problems and which ones aren’t. The next step is to identify the actions you are going to take to reduce your worrying.

Choose from a range of effective methods for decreasing worry

Fortunately, for each worry type, there are a range of effective methods that you can use to regain control over your worrying and decrease your worries.

For worry about current problems where you have some direct control, you can apply techniques, to decrease worry, such as:

  • Use the Worry Tree
  • Problem Solving,
  • Challenging Negative Thinking
  • Helpful Thinking.

For worry about hypothetical situations where you have almost no control, you can apply techniques, to decrease worry, such as:

  • Tolerating Uncertainty,
  • Rethinking the Usefulness of Worry
  • Writing a Worry Script

And if you find yourself worrying about worry you can:

  • Use a Thought Record Sheet for Worry Beliefs
  • Challenge your beliefs about the usefulness of worrying

If you'd like more information on one or more of these techniques send an email to tony@tycoaching .nz.


Ready to take action?

Helping people to regain control over their stress and anxiety is my passion. If you'd like to explore how I can help you reduce your worry and anxiety, contact me today on 021 056 8389 or email me at or use the Book Now button below.

Wishing you a calm and peaceful week.
Go well

REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."


Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in helping people to 'change their minds' so they gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress, overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of solution focused coaching, neuroscience, positive psychology and clinical hypnosis.