Why is Worrying so Addictive?

Lauren Sullivan
4 min readOct 11, 2022
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Worry — (verb) give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or trouble

(noun) a state of anxiety and uncertainty over actual or potential problems

I’ve always been a worrier. Even when I think back to some of my earliest memories as a kid, I can remember catching myself in countless moments of future-planning, overthinking, and over-contemplation.

I’m wired in a way to associate worry with being a productive way of planning. Which, when you look at the definition of worry, couldn’t be more untrue.

My worry, like many others, arises when I am about to face a new or challenging situation — particularly one where there is a risk of failure, humiliation or vulnerability.

The issue is that most of these situations that have triggered my worry, aren’t dangerous at all. Most of them are just inevitable experiences of life.

But when your brain makes a habit of using worry as a coping mechanism, any small circumstance can trigger a barrage of panic.

Although I would like to think I’ve gotten a hold of how much I worry, I still find myself clutching onto it during heightened periods of anxiety.

The nature of worry is toxic in the fact that it puts your mind and body in an unrelaxed and agitated state. I’ve noticed my physical health decline when I am going days, weeks, and even months worrying about stupid shit. I get migraines, stomachaches, lethargy and poor sleep when I am caught worrying about uncertain situations in my life.

But why is it so hard to just stop worrying?

Worrying is addictive because up to this point, we have allowed our brain to habitualize the act of over-preparation and overthinking. Our brain has learned to function on the notion that the more we think about future catastrophes before they arise, the more we can be prepared for whatever unknowns may come from them.

The problem with this mindset is that it solidifies the fact that (a) we need to be in a fearful state to combat new challenges and (b) thinking about our problems is actually productive.

When we choose to mull on the “what-ifs” of life, we are putting our bodies in an uncomfortable and…

Lauren Sullivan

A millennial living in Manhattan, eating too much sushi, and writing until 2am.