Why Should I Worry: Healthy Reasons To Worry
Updated February 16, 2020
Reviewer Kelly L. Burns, MA, LPC, ATR-P
We are often told how worrying is bad for our overall mental and physical health. But for many people, worrying is a natural state of being. It may seem that if you don't worry, you don't care about the situation. There are sometimes when worry may be justified.
If you are a chronic worrier, you may have trouble distinguishing between legitimate worry and unhealthy worry. Why should I worry? That is the question that you may be asking your doctors and therapists, seeking answers for what is and isn't healthy.
The first step to understanding what healthy worry is and what is not is to understand the nature and function of worry in and of itself. One research study published in 1994 set out to outline just that. They determined that the nature of worry is largely conceptual and imaginative cognitive activity. What does that mean exactly? It means that your imagination runs away with you.
It is also important, however, to understand the function of worry. That is to avoid a threat cognitively. If that sounds like a good thing, you may be right. In some instances, when you think why should I worry you recognize that some threats need to be avoided. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Still, excessive worrying over time can cause detrimental health effects. Studies have shown that people who worry too much have high anxiety, stress, and depression. These mental health problems can lead to bigger physical health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and chronic headaches or ulcers.
To better know when you should worry and when it is unhealthy to do so, this guide looks at the most common healthy reasons that people worry. For each worry, you will learn what constitutes healthy worry, and when it becomes unhealthy.
Caring About A Situation
Many people feel that if they don't worry it means that they don't care. It is perfectly normal, and healthy, to care about a situation. That situation can be something personal to yourself or a loved one. Or, it might be a situation on a broader scale, such as climate change or other humanitarian matters.
Many situations in life can make you worry. You might be worried about being behind on your bills, or whether or not you will get a good review at your place of employment. You might be worried about being able to fix or improve on your home, or even inclement weather.
Situations arise daily that you may care deeply about and cause you to worry. The important thing is to understand when that worry is healthy and when it is no longer serving its purpose. Ask yourself, why should I worry?
The healthy worry would be expressing concern about a situation and taking action to prevent dire circumstances. For example, if you are worried about climate change, you might do what you can to protect and advocate for the environment. If you are worried about being behind on your bills, you might do some extra budgeting and see where you can cut things out of your spending.
If you are worried about the inclement weather, such as living in tornado alley or an area prone to hurricanes, you might use that worry to prepare yourself for an inevitable storm. Worry that leads to action and preparedness is perfectly healthy.
When caring about situations becomes unhealthy is when you find yourself obsessing about the situation. If, for example, you have done all you can to prepare in case of frequent storms, you should then put that worry out of your mind. You are prepared, and there is nothing more to be done. At that point, the worry becomes detrimental to your health.
Worrying About Meeting A Deadline
Many people feel that worrying about meeting deadlines helps them be more productive. If they are constantly worried about their performance at work, they are more likely to be diligent. They are afraid that if they stop worrying, they will no longer be as proactive.
When you are concerned enough about performance or meeting a deadline that it keeps you motivated to keep going, that can be a good thing. If the deadline is at the forefront of your mind, you'll be more likely to continue moving toward completion. This is true whether it is a work deadline, or if it is a personal deadline you have made, such as losing a certain amount of weight by a certain date.
It is unhealthy to continue to worry about deadlines when there is nothing more you can do at the time. For example, if you have a looming deadline at work, but you have left work for the day, you should then stop worrying about it. At this point, the worry no longer motivates you, because there is nothing to be done at that time.
When you continue to worry about deadlines when there is nothing for you to do at that moment, it takes away from the things that you could be doing with that time. You cannot enjoy your time away from work if you are constantly worried about those deadlines. This can lead to undue stress and even physical symptoms.
Worrying About Your Health
Like looming deadlines, worrying about your health can motivate you to take action. If you are logically and legitimately worried about things like being overweight, having high blood pressure or cholesterol, or showing abnormal symptoms, it can force you to take action like going on a diet or seeking out a doctor.
Some people believe that it is necessary to be aware of and worried about their health constantly. They are hyperaware of their bodies and symptoms that they may show. They may make a lot of trips to the doctor or frequently call in sick to work when they don't feel well.
When you have a legitimate health concern, it can be helpful to have a moderate amount of worry. This will keep you aware of the health condition and push you to take action to correct it. You can seek out a doctor or other medical practitioner that will be able to help you resolve the problem. If you never worried about your health even when problems arose, you could become extremely unhealthy, and it could lead to major problems.
However, when you spend so much time worrying about your health that you are constantly looking up symptoms online and seeing doctors, it is no longer a healthy worry. Health anxiety is a very real disorder that can make you constantly feel afraid for your health.
When worry about your health overtakes every aspect of your life, causes you to miss work, and costs you hundreds or thousands of dollars in medical expenses, you have a problem that you need to face. Health anxiety is both unhealthy and dangerous and can lead to very real health problems even if no real health conditions exist in the first place.
Worrying About Future Plans
Worrying about plans can be beneficial in some ways. Many people feel that the worry they have about plans for vacations, future careers, or major life events helps keep them on track and prepared for every eventuality.
A certain amount of worry over plans, especially if they are really important like planning a wedding or preparing for your first child, can be somewhat healthy in moderation. You want to be able to prepare for anything and everything that could go wrong, and everything that could go right.
When people don't worry at all about plans, details fall through the cracks. Being somewhat worried about making sure that everything is perfect will help you make sure that no detail is left untouched or unplanned. Especially for complex events or lengthy vacations, this small amount of worry can be very helpful.
When this worry becomes unhealthy is when it reaches the point that you are no longer looking forward to the plans. When you are so worried about the things that could go wrong that you no longer enjoy the planning or will enjoy the event itself, that is a problem that you need to face.
It is also unhealthy to continue to worry about plans when all the planning and preparation is complete. When there is nothing left to do, and you have planned for every eventuality, you must put that worry out of your mind. When you continue to worry after the planning is done, you are missing out on the present worrying about the future.
Worrying About Kids
Worrying about your kids may seem like a perfectly natural thing to do. Because you love them so much and only want what is best for them, you may frequently be worried about many aspects of your children's lives. You might worry about your toddler getting injured, your school-aged child getting good grades, or your teenager dating.
It is somewhat healthy to have reasonable worry about your children. Worrying about your children helps you protect them. When you are worried about your kids you are aware of the dangers facing them, and you can prepare them for those dangers.
It is extremely unhealthy to continue worrying about your kids after you have prepared them for what they will face. It is also unhealthy to constantly worry about your kids to the point that you don't allow them to do certain things that are healthy for both of you.
Not only is excessive worry about your kids unhealthy for you, but it is also extremely unhealthy for them as well. If you are truly concerned about your child's well-being, you must let them make mistakes and learn some things on their own, even though you work to prepare them. You cannot protect them from everything all the time and remain healthy for you and your child.
Worrying About Your Spouse
It is natural to worry about your spouse. You might worry about their well-being or their health. Less common is worry that your spouse will be unfaithful or leave you. Some people are very worrisome about whether or not their spouse will stick around after a long time.
It is healthy to worry about your spouse to a small degree. Worrying that your spouse is in good health can help you stay on top of personal care and helping you help them to be better. Some mild worry about your spouse's career can help you support them through tough decisions or transitions.
It is very unhealthy to worry a lot about whether or not your spouse is faithful or will stay with you for years. This is not only unhealthy for you; it is unhealthy for your spouse and your relationship. Trust is vitally important for any relationship to be healthy, and if you are constantly worrying about these things, there is no trust.
It is also unhealthy to worry about your spouse's health to the point that you do not want them to do things that they want or need to do. Standing in the way of your spouse's success will put a strain on your relationship and cause both of you undue stress.
Worrying About Your Parents
Especially if your parents are older, it is natural to worry about your parent's health or their ability to care for themselves. You care about your parents and want to make sure that they are well taken care of. If they have failing health, it is natural to worry a bit about that, and how much longer they might be around.
A healthy amount of worry about your parent's well-being is helpful to them. When you are worried a bit about your parent's health and whether or not they can take care of themselves, you are more aware of these things. You are better prepared to help them when they need it, and you are better prepared to take steps such as a nursing facility or in-home nursing care when it becomes required.
When worry about parents becomes unhealthy is when you are constantly worried, and you are always checking in on them. When you spend all of your time worrying about your parents, you are not enjoying the time that you have with them.
Also, this constant worry about your parents can be unhealthy for them as well. It can cause you to try to limit or control what they do with their time. It can make them hyperaware of their health and cause them undue stress.
Worrying About Worrying
If you are worried about how much you are worrying, and wondering why should I worry, you may need to get some help. Worrying too much about too many things is extremely unhealthy. A therapist can help you determine if your worry is founded or if it is out of control.
If your worry is out of control, a therapist can help you learn ways to let go of your worry. Letting go of your worry and anxiety can help you lower your stress levels, and the stress levels of those around you. You will be healthier, and you will have healthier relationships.