There are many fears and worries associated with adoption. The expression “worrywart” was first used in the popular American comic strip “Out Our Way” by James R. Williams in the 1930s—a time when warts were thought to be caused by stress and excessive worrying. “Worrywart” was a young boy from a small town family who perturbed and agitated others. He was a pest and a nuisance, a pathetic rather than funny person who annoyed others by worrying loudly and constantly over nearly everything. The label became a popular American moniker for simple, weedy, bedraggled cowboys and typical Americans of a generation ago. Nobody wants warts and anyone associated with this label was thought to unduly dwell on difficulties and troubles, to worry habitually, incessantly and needlessly. Worrywarts were insignificant, pessimistic, annoying, obnoxious individuals with defects and unattractive features, fussbudgets that caused needless anxiety in the minds of everyone around them.
Worrywarts have a persistent sense of urgency about the future because they imagine something bad will happen. Their anxieties are all about anticipation paralyzed by a sense of dread that something will go wrong. Nervousness and unease about an imminent event with an uncertain outcome leads to a surge of anxiety, a normal reaction to stress, but chronic worrying can cause illness and even lead to panic. Excessive anxiety manifests itself in changes in health, appetite, lifestyle, relationships, muscle tension, sleeping disorders and job performance. Feelings of impending doom may lead to depression when fears are exaggerated and unrealistic. Excessive worriers tend to be sensitive to their surroundings and view the criticism of others as potential threats.
Adoption is undeniably a traumatic event for individuals on all sides of the adoption triangle. Women who give their child up for adoption worry about identity issues when interacting with the adoptive family. Stigmatizations and negative psychological effects of separation may lead them to chronic worrying and depression. Adoptive parenthood can bring tremendous joy but what if the birth parents change their mind? What if the adopted child has special health care needs and learning disabilities? Will the family qualify for financial assistance and tax credits? What if the community isn’t accepting of a transracial family? At what age should I tell my child about adoption? What should I do if my child experiences feelings of grief and loss about their family, culture and country of origin? Divorce and parental alienation erode feelings of internal safety and security. Overprotective parents may develop the mind-set that the world is not such a safe place. Adoptees want to belong and feel connected. They know their experience is real but those wanting to make sense of their life story may worry if they are the product of rape or incest and if there was corruption in the adoption system. What if there is a birth mother that had her child stolen from her who has been desperately searching ever since?
Adoption is a lifelong process and chronic worriers need to learn how to accept uncertainty and prepare themselves emotionally and psychologically for predictable outcomes. Nobody wants a nervous breakdown but separations, relationships and transitions are difficult hurdles throughout the lifespan of children whose earliest experience was separation from their birth mother. As we mature and learn to make sense of our feelings we must learn how to respond appropriately rather than simply react to unexpected events by acquiring the skills needed to provide an overall sense of well-being. When our worries become overtly challenging and bothersome it is advisable to seek the advice of a clinical professional counselor.