After death and taxes, worry may be the most unavoidable fact of life according to the Menninger Letter. We worry about our personal concerns, our family, all the way to world crises. Worry has always been considered a negative experience. People who worry also tend to make decisions more slowly.
In light of these negative features, Mark Freeston and his colleagues form Laval University in Quebec conducted research to find out why people worry. They got 370 university students to participate.
The researchers identified two general beliefs about worrying. One is that worry is seen as a way to avoid a negative outcome. By worrying, we believe we can reduce the likelihood that something bad will actually happen.
On the other hand, worriers believe that worrying also has positive effects. If we worry enough, it may motivate us to discover a better way to do something, increase our control over a bad situation, or find a solution to seemingly insoluble problem. This explains why people continue to worry even when the experience seems unpleasant.
However, much of worry is irrational fear over which we have no control. For example, a mother who worries all day expecting a phone call to tell her that her child’s school bus had an accident, something that is both rare and over which she has not control. When this becomes disabling, this is a symptom of a generalized anxiety disorder. They may experience social and occupational difficulties.
Worry is an undeniable fact of life. In most situations it is best to do all we can to live with life’s uncertainties and resist the urge to give in to worry.