What To Do When You Worry About Yourself Too Much
Updated February 16, 2020
Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
It's easy to worry about yourself with so many cautionary tales circulating online and on local news programs. It can seem like no matter what you do, you're putting yourself at risk for devastating physical or mental illness. How can you cope? First, you need to know what it means to worry about yourself too much.
What Does It Mean To Worry About Yourself Too Much?
There's nothing wrong with taking reasonable precautions with your health. Worrying constantly about every minor discomfort or unexpected feeling isn't the same as taking precautions, though. Taking precautions might mean quitting smoking or starting an exercise program. Worrying is different. Instead of protecting you from poor health, it actually can cause health problems.
What Is Worry?
Worry is nothing more than a state of mind. Yet, your mind has incredible power to affect your health and well-being. Specifically, to worry is to give in to anxiety or unease, allowing your mind to dwell on some negative thought or troubling occurrence.
You may worry about what might happen in the future. Or, you might worry about happenings that you don't understand. You may worry about real problems or possible problems. Or, you might focus on what might happen to you in the future.
Do You Have Reasons To Worry?
There's one big question you need to answer for yourself before you can think about whether you worry about yourself too much. "Do I have a reason to worry?" It's an important question. After all, if you're experiencing real symptoms or seeing verifiable signs of an actual problem, you may need to take action to solve or prevent trouble.
You might need to seek help from an expert, such as a doctor or a therapist, and that's okay, it can be helpful. As long as you don't cling to the possibility of disaster after you receive good news, it isn't too much worrying to take care of your concerns.
What Is The Benefit Of Worrying?
Taking the right actions to solve problems can be extremely helpful. What about worrying, does it have any benefits? It can be tempting to let yourself worry. It may seem like if you dwell on the problem long enough, the answers will come, but actually, the opposite is true. Answers tend to come when you let your mind relax and work on the problem in the background.
So, worrying doesn't solve problems, but does it serve any other purpose? Here are some reasons people have for feeling they need to worry and why they don't make much sense:
- "It shows I care." You can show caring in many other, less harmful ways.
- "It helps motivate me." In most cases, worry paralyzes you instead of inspire you to act.
- "If I worry now, I won't be taken off guard later." A better way to prepare yourself for trouble is to develop your strengths and build resilience through more positive thinking.
- "I'll be a better person if I worry." If you want to be a better person, choose positive thoughts and behaviors that help you and others have a better life. Worry doesn't protect you from doing something you feel is wrong.
What Is Illness Anxiety Disorder?
Worrying constantly about your physical and/or mental health plays havoc on your emotions and can cause your health to deteriorate as overprotective behavior stops you from living a normal life. In the past, obsessive worry that you might have a physical or mental illness was called hypochondriasis. That condition is now called illness anxiety disorder.
Illness anxiety disorder is a condition in which you have severe anxiety because you're obsessing over possible symptoms of a disorder that there's no proof that you have.
What Is Cyberchondriasis?
You might hear the word cyberchondriac to describe a person who's overly concerned with their health. This isn't a formal diagnosis, but it does describe a phenomenon that doctors deal with every day. It refers to people who go online when they're worried about their health and put too much importance on what they find there.
You might be suffering from cyberchondriasis if you commonly look up the symptoms of a disorder and then begin to notice those symptoms within yourself. If you're spending a lot of time reading checklists for illnesses and pondering whether they apply to you, you may have this form of illness anxiety.
Causes Of Illness Anxiety Disorder
No one really knows what causes illness anxiety disorder. However, there are some things that seem to contribute to it.
Internet or local news stories often make rare illnesses sound common. Parents or caregivers may be overprotective and overly concerned with possible signs of illness. The children or others under their care then take up the same obsession with health. In addition, there may be a hereditary component. Families with members who have OCD are more likely to have members who have illness anxiety disorder.
Signs You Worry About Yourself Too Much
Most people have passing thoughts that something isn't right. This may prompt them to get needed medical treatment or mental help. When does normal concern cross the border into worrying about yourself too much? Doctors use the following criteria to determine if your worrying might be out of control.
You're Worried About Two Or More Undiagnosed Illnesses
If you have distinct symptoms that cause you concern, it may be that you really do have a medical or mental condition you need help to overcome. Yet, if you're worried about two or more illnesses without having any confirmation that you have the disorder, it's a sign that you might be worrying too much and may have illness anxiety.
Your Obsession With the Illness Causes You Extreme Distress
It's one thing to notice troubling symptoms and talk to your doctor about them. However, becoming extremely distressed simply because you might have an illness shows that you're worrying about yourself too much. You're making your own life miserable without any solid evidence that something is wrong.
You Can't Accept Your Doctors' Statements That There Is No Disease
Suppose you do go to a doctor to find out if you have a disease. If your doctor says, "No, you seem perfectly healthy," then what do you do? You might get a second opinion if you're sure that something is wrong. That isn't unusual. However, if the second doctor says the same as the first and you refuse to believe that nothing's wrong, you're probably worrying too much about yourself.
Your Worry Makes It Hard To Function In Relationships
When worrying causes discord in your personal relationships, it's unhealthy worry. Too much emphasis on possible illnesses can keep you from enjoying healthy relationships with your loved ones. Your obsession with diseases can make you hard to get along with. It can even cause you to isolate yourself from others to avoid germs or accidents that you feel might make your condition worse.
Your Worry Affects Your Work
If you're like most adults, you need to work to live. Yet, worrying about yourself can take precedence over your work responsibilities. If you find yourself staying home from work too often because you fear minor physical problems are a sign of major illness, you could lose your job and damage your career.
You Continue To Worry For At Least Six Months
If you're noticing physical or mental issues that might be a sign of illness, it may be because you're under a lot of stress. It could also be that you do have a problem that you need to address. However, if you continue to worry for over six months, that isn't dealing with a problem, instead, the worry itself has become a pattern.
You Spend A Lot Of Time At Doctors' Offices And ER's
While it's true that some people do have multiple serious diagnoses and need to go to the doctor often, they're the exception and not the rule. If you haven't been diagnosed with an illness, you probably don't need to see a doctor frequently.
You Avoid Checking Out Any Physical Or Mental Complaints At All
Some people with illness anxiety disorder do the opposite. They avoid seeing a doctor or therapist at any cost, because they believe that any subtle sign of illness will turn out to be something so devastating, they don't even want to know about it. If you skip your yearly physical to avoid finding about problems, you may be worrying too much.
How To Stop Worrying So Much
So, what do you do once you realize you're worrying way too much about yourself? There are a few simple steps you can take to change your mindset and get on a positive path.
Take Direct Action When You Can
The first thing you can do is to do something about your problems. If you're worried about getting diabetes, stop ruminating about what life is going to be like when you find out you have it. Instead, do things that will prevent the illness, like getting more exercise and watching what you eat.
Remind Yourself That Worrying Doesn't Help
Worrying never solves anything. It doesn't help you feel better, and it doesn't improve your physical or mental health. Whenever you find yourself dwelling on problems or potential problems, stop and think about whether the worry is productive. When you realize it isn't, you'll find it easier to let it go.
Work On Improving Your Mood
You may be worrying too much if your mood was already depressed. If that's the case, you can address the worry indirectly by working to improve your mood. Get outside and get some exercise. Spend time with friends. Eat healthy foods. Start a new hobby. Do things that lift your mood, and your worry may disappear.
What To Do If You Can't Stop Worrying
If you've been worrying about yourself for a long time, you might need extra help changing those thought patterns. Talking to a therapist is a good way to address your concerns in a positive way.
Since it's your thoughts that are out of line, cognitive behavioral therapy may be helpful to you. In CBT, your therapist teaches you how to recognize and assess the thoughts behind your worries. You get practice in challenging those thoughts and choosing thoughts that are more helpful to you.
If you find that you can't stop worrying no matter how hard you try, you can get help by talking to a counselor at BetterHelp.com. Private online therapy can help you enjoy life and improve your mental health. With help, you can stop worrying and learn new ways to deal with your doubts, fears, and negativity. A better life is waiting!