Is my worrying normal, or do I worry too much?
Everyone worries about things sometimes. But have you ever asked yourself, ‘Do I worry too much?’
Where is the line between ‘normal’ worrying, and excessive worrying?
And if you do worry too much, what can you do about it? (Because we all know that ‘just stop worrying’ is easier said than done!)
Try this quick quiz – just 12 questions – to learn more about your worrying, and figure out your next steps.
Quiz: Do I Worry Too Much?
Question 1: Do you get told by your partner, family or friends to ‘stop worrying’?
- Not really. Everyone worries about things occasionally. It’s normal. (1 point)
- Yes. But being told to ‘stop worrying’ makes me feel a bit useless, because I don’t seem to know how to stop worrying. (2 points)
- Yes, but I actually have this feeling that if I didn’t worry so much, something really bad would happen. I feel like my worrying is what keeps us all okay. (3 points)
Question 2: Does worrying feel helpful to you?
- Yes, when I do it. It’s part of organising my life more effectively and preparing for difficult eventualities. (1 point)
- No. It feels like my head gets so clouded or swamped by the turmoil of worries that I can’t think straight. (2 points)
- Yes. This may sound crazy, but I secretly feel like it’s almost a kind of protective cushion that helps me get through life. (3 points)
Question 3: What do you worry about?
- Particular things, such as what I’ll need to do to get ready for a holiday, or what I’ll say in a forthcoming job interview or presentation. (1 point)
- Everything! Money, my career, what could happen to my loved ones, my health, my relationship, my appearance, my home, what people are thinking about me; I even worry about things that are supposed to be pleasurable, like going away or seeing friends. (3 points)
- My worrying tends to go in distinct phases, where I get fixed on worrying about one thing for a period of time, then I move on to something else. (3 points)
Question 4: When you’re booking a holiday or a trip, do you plan, plan, and plan some more?
- I’m pretty good at planning things, although sometimes I do just like to ‘go with the flow’. (1 point)
- Yup. I even make plans for making plans! I dread that I might overlook something vital and then everything would be a disaster. (2 points)
- I sometimes feel that I can only relax when we’re all safely home again – but by then, I’m generally on to worrying about the next thing… (3 points)
Question 5: Do you avoid doing certain things because of your worries?
- Not particularly. Or maybe yes, if you count stuff like swimming with sharks or being a stunt pilot! (1 point)
- Yes. I often find myself making excuses to others so I can avoid certain events or situations. (2 points)
- Yes. I really limit what I attempt to do, or where I go. I feel that if I didn’t, the results could be disastrous. (3 points)
Question 6: Do you have health issues that get worse when you’re particularly stressed, like headaches, skin problems or irritable bowel syndrome?
- Occasionally I’ll get a headache or my stomach will churn, and I find that’s a useful signal to me that something’s out of balance in my life and I need to take some action to get balanced again. (1 point)
- Yes, I get stress symptoms a lot, and then I get angry with myself because it’s my own doing. (2 points)
- Yes, stress-related health issues impact my life quite a lot, but I don’t know what I can really do about it. (2 points)
Question 7: How does it feel to just sit and ‘be’ in the present moment?
(This could be stopping to really soak in some scenery; enjoying really being present with your kids or partner; practising mindfulness meditation; or just breathing slowly and relaxing in a warm bath).
- When I remember to do that, I definitely feel better for it. (1 point)
- I wouldn’t know! There’s too much going on in my whirlpool mind. (2 points)
- I’ve tried, but having that mental space actually feels quite scary. (3 points)
Question 8: How do you feel about the phase of life you’re in now?
- It has its ups and downs, but I do feel I’m ‘in it’ and enjoying what I can about this stage of my life. (1 point)
- I don’t know. I’m actually quite obsessed with what’s around the corner, and how to prevent disasters happening in the future. (3 points)
- It’s hard to get a handle on where I’m at now… I use a lot of mental energy going over past events, and rehearsing future scenarios. (3 points)
Question 9: How’s your sleep?
- It’s pretty good, on the whole. I could probably benefit from getting a bit more, but that’s about it. (1 point)
- Erratic and unpredictable. Sometimes my dreams are very vivid – I’d love to know what they mean! (2 points)
- Terrible. I often wake up in the night feeling anxious and scared, and my worries seem to get even more intense at night. (3 points)
Question 10: Do you feel that other people understand when you express your worries to them?
- Yes. My friends and family seem to say they’d feel the same as I do, when I tell them what I’m concerned about. (1 point)
- No. I tend not to tell people about my worries because they only try and ‘talk me out of it’ which just makes me feel misunderstood. (2 points)
- People say they understand, but I feel they don’t really. I’m not sure that anyone could really ‘get it’ – I don’t even understand myself, why I worry so much. (3 points)
Question 11: Do you have all sorts of ‘worst-case scenario’ plans?
- Not really. I think that if something happens, I’ll somehow find a way to deal with it. There’s not much point worrying about it beforehand because it probably won’t happen (and if it does, the circumstances will be particular, and probably not something I would be able to foresee). (1 point)
- Yes. Hundreds! But they all jumble around in my mind and I can’t really think clearly about them. (2 points)
- Yes. I always expect disaster to happen. I kind of feel like in a weird way, it would almost be a relief to get it over with. (3 points)
Question 12: Do you have any rituals or activities that you do to try and manage your worries?
- If things are stressful, sometimes I’ll designate a period of time each day to think about my worries. That seems to help keep my anxieties under control, and I find I can often come up with a solution or plan that helps. I also find that talking things through with someone helps me get things in perspective. (1 point)
- Yes. Things like, I always have to say ‘I love you’ to my kids when we part in the mornings (in case something terrible happens that day and we never see each other again). I am also quite superstitious and avoid things like walking under ladders, etc. (2 points)
- Actually, when I think about it, there are a lot of little habits I have that might be to do with helping myself feel a bit more in control. (Except that they only seem to make me feel more anxious in the long run!). I have some things I do that involve counting, and making sure things happen in a certain order or are arranged in a certain way. (3 points)
Now add up your scores. How did you do?
12 – 14:
Do I worry too much? No.
Your worrying is at a moderate or low level. You trust that most problems, when they arise, will be manageable. When a stressful life event hits, you take appropriate action where you can, drawing on the support of friends and family, and you tend to be able to stabilise your emotions and stress levels pretty well.
15 – 18:
Do I worry too much? Hmm…
Your worrying may not be not impacting your life hugely, but it would be a good idea to take some action now, perhaps through starting a daily habit of gratitude, self-compassion and mindfulness. This could help inoculate you against your habit of worrying gaining too much strength.
19 – 24:
Do I worry too much? Yes.
You need to take your worry levels seriously, because your worrying may be starting to affect your relationships, your health and your happiness. Some sessions with a good counsellor or therapist could really help you get clarity on what’s going on, so that your worrying doesn’t control your life.
19 – 36:
Do I worry too much? Definitely! But it doesn’t have to stay this way.
It’s not your fault, but your worrying is having quite a big negative impact on your life. The reasons for this will be individual, but working with a good counsellor, psychotherapist or art psychotherapist can help you make sense of your anxiety, and free you up so it doesn’t dominate your life.
It’s possible that CBT (Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy) may help you get a handle on what’s going on. But if you’ve tried CBT and found that it hasn’t made a significant difference to your symptoms over time, it isn’t because you have ‘failed’ – it’s because your worrying may be a signal that something important still remains to be understood.
If this is the case for you, you are likely to do best with a psychotherapist who can help you with issues that are rooted more deeply. Look for a therapist who has expertise and training in any of the following: AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy), Art Psychotherapy/ Art Therapy, Coherence therapy, Sensorimotor therapy, attachment-based relational psychoanalytic psychotherapy, Emotion-Focused Therapy, or Focusing.
I use AEDP and Integrative Arts Psychotherapy to help clients who’ve been suffering with overwhelm, anxiety and excessive worrying. I work online via video (like Skype) and I also work with clients who come to my consulting room near Colchester, North Essex. If you would like to talk with me about whether I might be the right therapist for you, email me espcameron[at]protonmail.com to arrange a free 15-minute phone consultation.
“But I can’t afford to see a therapist at the moment!”
Seeing a good therapist who can tailor the work to your individual needs is ideal. Group therapy is also a valuable (and lower-cost) option. If that’s really not possible, you may be able to make a fair amount of headway by practising mindfulness and self-compassion on a daily basis each day. Dip into some of the many resources available on YouTube and elsewhere online. And seek out a community of friends and peers who can help support you.
You may also like to check out some of my other blog posts below.