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What are we making a statement about when we say someone is "worried" ?

Contributors (2)


  1. Would it make sense to say that  worry is defined in terms of both thought process (a person is thinking continuously, i.e., ruminating, about the same topic) and though content (there is some specific thing that the person is thinking about)?

    We haven't quite resolved what the meaning of functions are (i.e, what are we claiming when we say that a finding is about, i.e., observing,  a cognitive function?)

    However, it seems more specific to claim that when we are  making an observation that someone  is worrying we are observing something about their thought process and the content of their thoughts. We are making a claim not about some underlying function or some way of functioning, we are making a claim specifically about what the person is thinking and how they are thinking about it - either at this point in time or over some period of time.

    Thoughts (no pun intended) ? 

  2. Posting here input from Laura Fochtmann

    On Sun, Nov 21, 2021 at 8:10 AM Laura Fochtmann <> wrote:

    If one has a thought, doesn’t there have to be some content? 

    I don’t think you can specify certain types of content as unique to worry vas it’s likely to be highly variable depending on the individual.

    Piper Ranallo wrote on 11/21/2021 12:26 PM:

    Yes, agree!  A "thought" by definition seems to have some content. This whole idea of "thinking about nothing" seems like an oxymoron to me. 
    If you're thinking, you're thinking about something, right? 

    In terms of "worry" concepts in SNOMED, the concept | Worried (finding) |  would be defined as having some content (which we don't specify - the idea is just that worry is always about something). The child concepts, e.g.,  | Worried about dying (finding) | would be defined with "content of thought" = the specific contention, e.,g. "dying". The thing that makes every kind of "worried about... " concept different from the others is the thing the person is worried about - the content of the thought.

    I'm guessing (but am not certain) that worrying about some undefinable "something" is what psychologists call "free floating anxiety". Not sure??


    On Sun, Nov 21, 2021 at 2:55 PM Laura Fochtmann <> wrote:

    I always thought of it as a pervasive sense of uneasiness even when you can't pin down a specific worry as often occurs in patients with generalized anxiety disorder in addition to their having specific worries.

    For what it's worth, I'm just responding back to you because it's a pain to have to log in to the confluence site to respond. 


  3. Do thoughts have "content?" Well, thoughts (all forms of cognition) emerge from brain activity. However:

    • What about when people are consciously unaware of the content of thoughts that are sub/unconscious? How can they become aware?
    • What about when they are only aware of the emotional sensations they feel that are associated with a thought, and what if those feelings are suppressed out of awareness (e.g., as a defense mechanism)? 
    • What if the only things observable are bodily expressions of such emotion thoughts (e.g., tension, agitation, tears), other behaviors such as avoidant eye-contact and changing the subject, and/or a history of maladaptive coping mechanisms? Can the observer then infer the existence of thoughts and feelings?
    • How can a thought that is associated with an emotion can be measured in terms of emotional valance, activation level, intensity, frequency, and duration? 

    I pose these questions because they have been studying them the past 35 years through my involvement in developing a therapeutic tool that helps answers.