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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Of Mountains and Molehills and Worry

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 30th 2013

Of Mountains and Molehills and Worry"My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened."

Do you make mountains out of molehills? When I was a boy whenever anyone spilled anything on the table cloth, even just a glass of water, my grandmother would become very angry. She was not unusual for having that reaction. Sometimes, the littlest of things make people angry. One way of thinking about this concept is to realize that some of us catastrophize the most minor of incidents. This a more serious issue than may appear on the surface. Statistics show that altercations over trivial issues sometimes results in homicide.

To a certain extent the tendency to make mountains out of molehills has to do with worrying and having an obsessive way of thinking. In other words, as a result of the watch or clock not being exactly set on time, people with OCD become exceedingly uncomfortable, worrying about potential terrible consequences. For those with OCD everything must be perfect or there can be catastrophic consequences. These people live in the world of "what if," meaning what if the clock is set wrong and my children get up late for school and a terrible car accident occurs on the way to school.

This way of thinking and living makes life unbearable for those who worry and the loved ones who surround them. Graham C.L. Davey, PhD conducted a piece of research on why we worry? Interviews of chronic worriers were conducted using questions such as "why worry about getting good grades in school?

*Here are some of the catastrophic consequences that chronic worriers came up with:

"I won’t live up to my expectations

I’d be disappointed in myself.                                           

I’d lose my self-confidence                                                

My loss of self-confidence would spread to other areas of my life.       

I wouldn't’t have as much control as I’d like.                     

I’d be afraid of facing the unknown.                                

I’d become very anxious.                                                   

Anxiety would lead to further loss of self-confidence.    

I wouldn't’t get my confidence back.                                  

I’d feel like 1 wouldn't’t have any control over my life.    

I’d be susceptible to things that normally wouldn't’t bother me.  

I’d become more and more anxious.                                

I’d have no control at all and I’d become mentally ill.    

I’d become dependent on drugs and therapy.                

I’d always remain dependent on drugs.                          

They’d deteriorate my body.                                             

I’d be in pain.                                                                      

I’d die.                                                                                  

I’d end up in hell."
* From Graham C.L. Davey, PhD. 

Another theory states that people men make mountains out of molehills when they feel aggressive and competitive. In this theory and research, the aggressive reactions have to do with competing for status. That is why, as stated above, some arguments over trivial things result in homicide. In other words, two men competing with each other for the status of one over the other. In this primitive way of thinking, the most aggressive wins the girl.

Whatever way you choose to look at this, making mountains out of molehills results in frustration and misery for all concerned. It's better the let these things go. What my grandmother should have done is smile and clean up the spill. It was just an accident. Perhaps, if this had been her approach to life she would not have had a heart condition.

Instead of exploding, take deep breaths, say a mantra by reminding yourself "it's not worth it" and see the humor in the situation.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD


Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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