What is worrying?
Worrying is a state of mind in which negative thoughts arise for a long period of time. You often have the feeling that you are stuck in negative thoughts, e.g. about your family, health, finances or work.
Worrying without direct cause is very common. Many people lie awake at night and worry about what could go wrong.
Sometimes the worrying can get a little out of hand. You are continuously thinking about problems and, no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop worrying. This can result in difficulties concentrating or falling asleep. Then you end up worrying about that. There seems to be no end…
Excessive worrying that is difficult to control is one of the main features of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). We also call this the ‘worrying disorder’. The worrying is then accompanied by a lot of anxiety and tension.
Diagnosis and symptoms
GAD is defined as:
- Having anxiety that is present for at least 6 months and has an effect on various events or activities in your daily life
- Finding it difficult to control your concerns
- You experience three or more of the following symptoms:
– Quickly fatigued
– Concentration problems
– Muscle tension
– Sleeping problems
Sometimes, in addition to the worrying, you catch yourself worrying about all that worrying. You have thoughts like “that can’t be good for me” and “all this worrying could make me crazy”. However, you may also have thoughts like “because of my worrying, at least I am prepared for the worst”. These beliefs about your ruminating thoughts are called ‘metacognitions’. We therefore consider worrying about worrying ‘meta-worrying’.
For the treatment of GAD, methods stemming from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are used, such as challenging thoughts and metacognitive therapy (MCT).
MCT focuses on the beliefs about the worrying thoughts, rather than on the content of those thoughts themselves. By investigating and challenging these beliefs, you will be able to reduce the meta-worry. Behavioural experiments allow you to test and change certain beliefs about worrying, in order for them to evoke less anxiety. You will also practice turning worrying into a more functional process again. Using the worrying-program, you will learn to manage your thoughts step by step, so that you eventually learn to think in a problem-solving manner.
Together with your therapist, you will challenge your worries. This can be done by means of a diary registration, thought record or during the sessions with your professional. You will learn to come up with alternative thoughts for the negative thoughts that arise during your worrying. By doing this, you will experience fewer negative feelings. A mindfulness exercise can also be used to reduce anxiety. It is also important to learn to relax, through progressive relaxation exercises, for example. These techniques make it easier to relax over time.
Do you find yourself troubled by worrying thoughts? Or do you worry about worrying? Try a mindfulness exercise by scheduling a new activity in the NiceDay app and compare your worries before and after the exercise.
Keijsers, G. P. J., Van Minnen, A., Verbraak, M., Hoogduin, C. A. L. & Emmelkamp, P., (2017). Protocollaire behandelingen voor volwassenen met psychische klachten.