Pathological Concern - Symptoms and Treatment

06 January, 2020
Pathological concern is the fuse that ignites anxiety, in addition to being a useless source of pain. Thus, you must learn to train your mind to calm down and focus more on solutions and to stop anticipating fatalities and negative outcomes.

Pathological concern is like a room that gradually runs out of oxygen. You’re trapped in a maze with no exit, a house without windows. It’s like walking into a slope without understanding why you’re not able to turn around. As you can imagine, this psychological state is the foundation of anxiety disorders.

So, why do you do it? Why is the human mind so eager to be a part of such distressing situations? Something you need to understand is that worry is, indeed, the cognitive component of anxiety. It’s what feeds it and what, in turn, makes it so resistant. Likewise, you mustn’t overlook another aspect: concern feeds on fears.

People tend to worry when they’re not sure of what’ll happen. When they tell themselves that something bad is going to happen or when, in an attempt to solve a problem, they doubt nearly everything. You could deduce that negativity is behind it all. However, you’d be wrong because, in reality, the shadow of fear is behind the negativity.

When the concern is pathological, it becomes mental anguish. In this psychological scenario, neither ideas nor desire can develop… not to mention hope. Therefore, you must detect these types of mental patterns to deactivate them. Continue reading to find out more about this topic.

“It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there’s nothing you can do about them, and why worry about things you do control? The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized.”

-Wayne W. Dyer-

A woman with pathological concern.

Why do you care and what’s the use?

Concern is a normal psychological process. Its purpose is to solve a problem, something that, for whatever reason, is taking away your peace of mind. This cognitive, emotional, and psychophysiological activation leads you to employ, in normal circumstances, certain coping strategies to reduce uncertainty, fears, and solve this event.

It’s also interesting that, in recent years, the scientific interest in the subject of concern increased significantly. Experts used to focus, almost exclusively, on discovering why people worried and how it impacted their levels of anxiety.

However, in recent years, studies such as one conducted by Dr. Mark Freeston of the University of California tried to identify the sources of concern that apply to almost everyone.

Your concerns due to two very specific reasons

According to the work of Dr. Freeston and his team, most of your concerns have two origins:

  • You care because you anticipate a negative event. You fear, for example, disappointing others, not achieving what you expect, losing something meaningful to you, and experiencing guilt by not doing certain things in a certain way.
  • The second reason why you care is quite curious. On average, you’ve come to believe that “worrying a lot” about certain things makes you responsible. It’s as if devoting many hours to thinking about certain things could help you find a solution and have more control over situations. In reality, it’s not always like that, because what excessive worry actually does is feed your anxiety.
A tree in the shape of a head.

Pathological concern and the feedback loop

Excessive concern stems from pathological concern. They’re states of mind in which you can’t stop thinking about the same things and anticipating negative results. It’s a type of rumination that, far from solving a problem, magnifies it and also intensifies your emotional distress.

Likewise, it’s important to note one thing: pathological concern arises from a curious feedback loop between your amygdala and prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is a region destined for detecting risks and sending an alarm message to the brain. A signal that translates into very specific emotional states: fear and anguish. Given these states, your prefrontal cortex is unable to think logically and reflexively to give more accurate answers to your concerns. What can you do under these circumstances?

Two women talking.

Three keys to confronting a pathological concern

One way to reduce pathological concern and the negative energy that feeds your brain is to talk. Verbal strategies act as cathartic mechanisms to reduce distress.

  • Therefore, keep up a dialogue with someone who knows how to listen, understand, and be close. When you talk to other people, you’re able to detect your irrational ideas and anythings that feeds your pain.
  • The second step is to calm down, as it’s easier for your emotions to balance, for your brain to breathe, and for ideas to flow. Thus, anguish loses power. To achieve this ideal internal state, there are some strategies such as relaxation, going for a walk, and practicing mindfulness.
  • The third step is to stop obsessing about a problem and focus on the solutions. It doesn’t matter how you got to that situation. Thus, the last thing you should do is anticipate what can or can’t happen. The essential thing is to define the problem objectively and think of coping strategies.

To conclude, it’s only worth highlighting one thing: when you’re continually subjected to a state of pathological concern, you must consult with a professional. There are many effective therapies that can help you change and improve your well-being.

  • Freeston, M. H., Rhéaume, J., Letarte, H., Dugas, M. J., & Ladouceur, R. (1994). Why do people worry? Personality and Individual Differences17(6), 791–802. https://doi.org/10.1016/0191-8869(94)90048-5