My Personality Is a Problem: Stephanie

My Personality Is a Problem: Stephanie
Stephanie's worrying needs to stop if she wants to save her marriage and start a family.
"I worry about everything. I mean everything. If it can be worried about, I worry about it," says Stephanie.

Though she has only been married for eight months, her worrying is pushing her husband away and affecting their sex life. Also, she says, "My husband has told me that he doesn't want to have children with me unless I can get my worrying under control ... He feels our child would grow up to be a nervous wreck."

Her worrying has been part of her life for years. "When I was a child, I would purposefully forget to do some of my homework so that I could worry myself to sleep," she says. "I worry about worrying myself to death, if that's even possible."

Turning to Dr. Phil for advice, she asks, "How can I get my worrying under control to save my marriage, and so it's not ruling my life?"

"What's your payoff? What are you getting out of this?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Stress, stress headaches almost daily and an overwhelming feeling in the pit of my stomach that I am going to be sick," Stephanie answers.

But if we do things for a reason, and people do what works, Dr. Phil wants to know, "What are you getting out of worrying that keeps you coming back?"

"Control," says Stephanie.

"Has it ever occurred to you that that is amazingly arrogant?" Dr. Phil asks. "How arrogant is it to believe that if you sit there and worry about some potentiality that you can keep it from happening?" For example, by worrying about her husband when he's in traffic, "Do you think that is going to split the traffic like the Red Sea and bring him home to you?"

"There is an illusion that maintaining a hyper-vigilant way, being all over everything, is some form of control," Dr. Phil says. "My dad used to say, 'Worrying is like rocking. It's something to do but you won't get anywhere.'"

Dr. Phil lists some of the topics that Stephanie worries about, including the environment, being a good wife, her health, her cooking, her marriage, the car breaking down, their bills, and the list goes on. "I don't think you have any concern about that stuff at all," he tells her. "You are worrying about that because you like to worry." A real worrier would go to great lengths to solve problems and plan ahead for situations, but Stephanie doesn't do that. "You're a rookie worrier," Dr. Phil jokes. "You don't even know how to worry!"

Driving home his point that Stephanie simply has made a habit out of worrying, Dr. Phil says, "If you worry about everything, you're really worried about nothing."

"What would happen if the worrying was gone from your life?" Dr. Phil asks. "The silence would be deafening," he suggests.

Stephanie agrees. "I couldn't handle it. I know I couldn't. It would just drive me nuts."

To break the habit, Dr. Phil suggests that Stephanie practice "thought-stopping." If she puts a rubber band around her wrist, for example, she should pull it back and snap it every time she has a worrisome thought. Or, she could give herself another consequence that is not pleasurable. Eventually, perhaps her wrist will be black and blue, but she'll let go of her worrying habit.