I have suffered from anxiety for many years and readers of this blog now that I am prone to overthinking, overplanning and taking steps that others might think excessive in order to ‘keep calm and carry on’ – for example scouting out parking spaces and visiting hospitals prior to appointments in case I get lost on route.
Another name for this blight which lurks like a malevolent spirit on your shoulder just waiting to ruin your day is toxic worrying.
Understanding the Different Types of Toxic Worrying
There are many different types of toxic worry and you may recognise yours in the list below.
Generalised toxic worry
With generalised toxic worry, there is no one cause. You worry about everything from finances to relationships. The worry is continuous, and it really impacts your day to day life.
This is actually the most common type of worry. You’ll find it hard to get a break from the worry and anxiety, and there may be no particular trigger.
With social worry, you’ll typically find yourself worrying about how you come across in social situations. You’ll feel uncomfortable around people and fear being judged by those around you.
There are different levels of severity with social worry. It may simply make you feel uncomfortable and anxious while you’re out. Or, in severe cases, it could make you avoid social situations completely.
None of us is perfect. However, those suffering from perfection worry tend to feel like they should be. You’ll scrutinize everything you do, berating yourself for not doing better.
It could be perfectionism at work, at home or within your social circle. While a little perfectionism can actually be healthy, too much quickly becomes toxic.
With this type of worry, it causes extreme distress if you don’t do things as well as you feel you should. It can impact productivity and prevent you from taking on opportunities as you’ll start to believe you won’t be good enough.
Fear of making mistakes
Fear is a common emotion, but it can easily take over your life. This is especially true when you’re scared of making mistakes.
The truth is, we all make mistakes and it is how we learn from them that helps us to develop and grow as people. When you have toxic worry relating to the fear of making a mistake, you’ll start to avoid taking on opportunities.
If you do suffer a failure, you’ll take it personally. You’ll struggle to move on, and you’ll spend most of your time worrying about what you did wrong.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
In some cases, toxic worry can be related to post-traumatic stress disorder. While this is the least common type of toxic worrying, it can still be a potential cause.
With this type of toxic worrying, it occurs after a stressful and traumatic experience. It could be an accident you’ve suffered, or a death of a loved one for example. In order to avoid going through the experience again, your mind starts to worry more, and you’ll be triggered by a variety of things that remind you of the incident.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious condition which requires professional treatment.
Why recognising your toxic worry is important
So, why is recognising the type of toxic worry you’re experiencing important?
The different types of toxic worry have a slightly different impact on your health and wellbeing. They also require a different form of management. Some will require professional help, while others can be managed successfully by yourself.
It is only after you have identified the type of toxic worry you’re experiencing, that you can work out how to get past it.
Toxic worrying can have a debilitating impact on your life. The above are some of the main types of toxic worry you may recognize in yourself. No matter what type of worry you’re dealing with, it’s important to find a way to treat it before it worsens for example by seeking counseling on BetterHelp, which is like talking to a good friend in confidence; but one who can give objective and practical support.
Signs You’re a Toxic Worrier
Now you know what toxic worrying is, the question is how can you determine if you’re a toxic worrier?
There are lots of signs and symptoms you can watch out for. Identifying toxic worry early on gives you the best chance of getting it under control quickly.
Here, you’ll discover some of the most common signs you’re a toxic worrier.
Physical symptoms to watch out for
While worry is largely associated with mental and emotional symptoms, it can cause a lot of physical issues too. Just some of them include:
- Frequent stomach aches
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Dry and spotty skin
- Racing heartbeat
The stress caused by toxic worrying is what largely triggers the physical symptoms. Did you know for example, that the digestive system has the same amount of nerves as your brain? So, when something is off, you’ll be prone to issues like stomach aches.
When you’re worried, it can either make you go off your food or overindulge in it. If you’ve gone off your food, you’re going to start losing weight as you won’t be consuming enough calories. If you overindulge, you’ll gain weight quite quickly.
The more you worry, the faster your heart will beat. A racing heartbeat can cause nausea and dizziness, as well as heightened anxiety. These are the main physical symptoms of toxic worrying you’ll want to watch out for.
You avoid situations
Often, when you worry so much about something, you’ll start to avoid it. Social worry is a good example of this.
Those who struggle with social-related worry, start to avoid going out or being in social situations which make them uneasy. Those who worry consistently about money may start to avoid looking at bills and ignoring the problem.
Whatever it is you are worried about, your mind will come up with creative ways to avoid the situation. Unfortunately, this can have a detrimental effect on your mental health.
You tend to over plan
A common symptom of toxic worry is over-planning. This means you’ll follow a strict routine, planning ahead for any eventuality.
If you fail to plan, it sends you into a panic. You won’t deal with the unexpected very well and change won’t be something you’re excited about.
This is the main symptom of my own toxic worrying habit.
Constant worry over the future
Do you constantly find yourself worrying over the future? If so, this could be a symptom of toxic worry.
There is nothing wrong with worrying a little over uncertainty. It’s natural to feel anxious and nervous over the future. However, if your worries are constant and you worry about every little thing that could happen, it’s a sign that it isn’t normal.
One of the tell-tale signs of toxic worrying is sleep troubles. When you have a lot on your mind, it’s extremely difficult to switch it off. This can mean you’ll find it really difficult to get off to sleep.
Or, you could find it difficult to stay asleep. Those who suffer from toxic worry tend to wake up frequently throughout the night. As soon as they awake, they begin worrying which in turn makes it hard to get back to sleep.
It is a vicious circle that can be really difficult to get out of. As you experience sleep troubles, it can also start to affect your health and wellbeing.
As you can see, there are a lot of symptoms of toxic worrying. The above are some of the most common you might recognize within yourself.
If you do suspect you’re suffering from toxic worry, it’s important to take steps to start controlling it. The good news is, regardless of how bad the worries have become, there is help available to manage and eliminate it.