When does worry become too much?

We all worry; it is a normal part of being human. But how much worry is too much? Where is the line between what is normal, and what may need extra attention with the help of a trained therapist? To answer these questions, we should consider the role that worry plays in our lives.

Like all emotions, worry sometimes serves an incredibly important purpose. Worry is actually quite helpful when it comes to risk assessment and decision-making. If we didn’t worry about consequences, we would likely get ourselves into a lot of trouble (and possibly danger) by making impulsive choices with no thought of the long term impact. Having that small degree of worry is useful in helping to keep us safe and make effective decisions.

Unfortunately, there is a point where worry ceases to be helpful and starts to impede our lives. To understand whether or not you are that point, think about the ways in which worry impacts your life. We classify things as “disorders” when they start to interfere with the functioning of one’s life. Has worry started to make your world smaller? For example, do you decline social invitations because of the worry about meeting new people or being in new environments? Do you avoid even reasonable risks because of your concerns about what might happen? While these may not seem like a significant things, they are examples of making your world smaller because of your worry. Perhaps you have goals and aspirations for your life that you don’t work towards because of the worry associated with them. If some of these examples fit for you, then your worry may have crossed the line into something that really needs to be addressed.

With the help of a trained cognitive behavioral (CBT) therapist, you can learn to better understand your worry and where it comes from. You will gain the tools you need to differentiate between justified and unjustified worry, and how to start taking steps to making your world as big as you want it to be. We don’t want to entirely eliminate worry from our lives because of the protective role that it can play; we need to experience it in a way that we can listen to it and act as needed when appropriate. What we don’t want is for our lives to be governed and our choices to be dictated by our worry. If your worry has started to cross the line and has become a roadblock to your goals, then that is the time to seek help.