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Why do I keep worrying about world's problems?

Q: I am a 27-year-old student. Nowadays I tend to worry a lot about many things. They are related to the real world. For example, I worry about pollution, effect of passive smoking, population explosion, the fact that resources are limited on earth, fast exhaustion of oil (petroleum etc.), change of climate (global warming) etc. I am also suspicious about the food I take because it has been reported that vegetable sellers use chemicals to give vegetables a fresh look or to ripen fruits. I have stopped taking fish since I read that ponds, rivers and seas are getting highly polluted. There is an alert in USA about the mercury deposition in fishes. I am also suspicious about cosmetics like deodorants and talcum powders. Has there been any study to understand their effect? In West Bengal, arsenic pollution in ground water has become a big problem and many are affected by this, some have even died. Ground water level is going down fast in other cities too. It has been estimated that after 50 years, two-thirds of all humanity will suffer from severe water shortage and nations will fight over water. I always worry that in future we will face very bad problems due to these. I often fail to concentrate on my studies worrying about these. Sometimes I feel I cannot breathe properly and cry without any reason. Why does that happen? What should I do?

A:It’s normal to worry about some of these problems once in a while, but an irrational obsession or incessant thoughts about the world’s problems, especially if these are continuing over a period of time and are interfering with your daily activities or studies, is indicative of a problem. The cause of these stress and depressive symptoms could be anything in the past that is being triggered off by these environmental concerns, any other problem which is manifesting itself in this manner or could be related to your present stress situation. Also someone in your family or immediate environment could also display such extreme concerns; the cause requires some introspection on your side. I would suggest that you should consider seeing a counsellor or a therapist as 3 months is a long duration and the problem may not disappear without intervention.

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