As psychotherapists we saw more people who were walking worriers (to coin a phrase) than most people meet in their lifetime. Our “treatment” evolved over time based on our interest in neurochemistry and brain research.
Thirty plus years ago, when we were in school, excessive worry was labeled as an Anxiety Disorder. What we weren’t taught was there was a positive biological adaptation for the brain to “worry”. Simply put the “brains” that knew best how to scan for danger were the “brains” that stayed alive long enough to produce progeny.
In our jungle days it was prudent and life saving for acute “worry”. The clients we saw who were anxious actually had very smart brains that were trying to keep them alive. Unfortunately, our 21st century brains don’t realize we no longer live in the jungle and chronic worry is a problem.
We also live considerably longer than in caveman times and recently research has discovered that in addition to creating biochemical changes, dysfunctional worry profoundly affects our genetics.
“Obsessive worries — negative responses to stress — actually can shorten the component of DNA that governs a person’s life expectancy. Under excess stress, this DNA component becomes shorter.”
So our DNA structure is literally changed by dysfunctional worry that does not lead to resolution but that instead leads to destructive biological changes in the body.