Type 1 and Type 2 Worries: How Are They Different?

Do you think that worrying helps you find solutions? Do you believe that those who don't worry are irresponsible? Discover here how your beliefs affect your day to day.
Type 1 and Type 2 Worries: How Are They Different?

Last update: 12 March, 2022

We all experience worries at some point. As a matter of fact, they fulfill an important function. They guide us and prepare us for action, hence we’re able to solve problems and prevent danger. However, in people with a certain predisposition, they can reach a pathological level. Thus, differentiating between type 1 and type 2 worries can help us understand how something we do every day can, occasionally, lead to a disorder.

Type 1 and 2 worries were proposed in Wells’ metacognitive model for generalized anxiety disorder. Nevertheless, its postulates can also be applied to other kinds of worry. Certainly, if worry is a problem for you, understanding how your mind works will allow you to make better decisions.

Anxious woman thinking "It could be worse"

Pathological concern

Before delving into type 1 and type 2 worries, it’s important to define the point at which worry changes from natural to pathological. This usually happens when it occurs too frequently, intensely, or concerns events that are extremely unlikely to occur.

Above all, worry becomes pathological when it stops fulfilling its function. That’s because worry should always be a preamble to action. It’s the red flag that tells you that there’s an issue you need to take care of. However, if you get stuck at this first step, and find yourself repeatedly going over the same thoughts without doing anything about them, something is wrong.

Within this dysfunctional kind of worry, we can differentiate between type 1 and type 2. The differences between them are based on the type of beliefs behind them. These ideas must be reviewed if you want to escape the vicious circle of worry.

Differences between type 1 and type 2 worries

Positive beliefs

Type 1 worries are nothing out of the ordinary. They might involve everyday topics such as employment, family, health, or social life. On the other hand, if they arise with too much frequency and intensity, they don’t promote any action. In other words, you continue to worry because you maintain a series of positive beliefs about it. For example:

  • “Worrying about something makes it less likely to happen”. This belief is extremely common and is maintained because, in most cases, what you fear is rather unlikely to occur. Thus, when it doesn’t happen, you convince yourself that you’ve avoided it thanks to your worry.
  • “Worrying helps me find ways to avoid what I’m afraid of.” You often feel that, by mentally thinking about an issue, you’ll find an adequate solution. Initially, this can be a positive move. However, when you go through the same mental journey numerous times, continuing to ruminate, you find yourself trapped in an endless cycle of worry.
  • “Worry helps me prepare for when what I’m worried about actually happens.” This statement, despite being quite common, isn’t true. Repeatedly going over the same distressing idea won’t help you to be more prepared. In fact, it’ll only deprive you of enjoying the present.

There are other positive beliefs such as that worrying makes you a better, more empathetic, or more responsible person. Nonetheless, all they achieve is to maintain your habit of worrying.

Negative beliefs

If you’ve maintained a tendency to worry for a long time, you usually begin to develop negative beliefs about it. For example, you start to realize how it’s interfering with your life, and how uncomfortable it makes you feel. In fact, you become aware that you’ve reached a point where you’re unable to control these repetitive ideas.

This generates what Wells calls meta worry or type 2 concerns. In other words, you begin to worry about being worried. That’s because now you see your worry as something negative. Therefore, you try to control and avoid these thoughts, and, when you fail to do so, your belief that they’re dangerous and uncontrollable is reaffirmed. This results in continual feedback of worry.

worried man

Do you have type 1 and type 2 worries?

If you feel that worry is excessively present in your day-to-day life and interfering with the way you’re operating, you need to start to pay attention to your beliefs. Ask yourself what you think about your worrying. Do you think it’s positive or dangerous? Furthermore, if you detect in yourself any of the behaviors we mentioned above, it’d be a good idea to review them.

Remember that worry should always be appropriate, justified, and proportional. First and foremost, it should motivate you to take action. Don’t get bogged down in circular thought sequences. Continue your problem-solving process to the end. Finally, if you recognize yourself in any of the behavioral patterns we mentioned above, don’t hesitate to consult a professional who’ll be able to give you appropriate advice.

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  • Wells, A. (1995). Meta-cognition and worry: A cognitive model of generalized anxiety disorder. Behavioural and cognitive psychotherapy23(3), 301-320.
  • López, A. B. (1998). Trastorno de ansiedad generalizada. Recuperado de http://diposit. ub. edu/dspace/bitstream/2445/357/1/116. pdf.