Chapter 3 - What Worry May Do To You

23 April 2022

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Business men who do not know how to fight worry
die young.
-DR. Alexis Carrel.
Some time ago, a neighbour rang my doorbell one evening and urged me and my family
to be vaccinated against smallpox. He was only one of thousands of volunteers who were
ringing doorbells all over New York City. Frightened people stood in lines for hours at a
time to be vaccinated. Vaccination stations were opened not only in all hospitals, but
also in fire-houses, police precincts, and in large industrial plants. More than two
thousand doctors and nurses worked feverishly day and night, vaccinating crowds. The
cause of all this excitement? Eight people in New York City had smallpox-and two had
died. Two deaths out of a population of almost eight million.
Now, I have lived in New York for over thirty-seven years, and no one has ever yet rung
my doorbell to warn me against the emotional sickness of worry-an illness that, during
the last thirty-seven years, has caused ten thousand times more damage than smallpox.
No doorbell ringer has ever warned me that one person out of ten now living in these
United States will have a nervous breakdown-induced in the vast majority of cases by
worry and emotional conflicts. So I am writing this chapter to ring your doorbell and
warn you.
The great Nobel prizewinner in medicine, Dr. Alexis Carrel, said: "Business men who do
not know how to fight worry die young." And so do housewives and horse doctors and
A few years ago, I spent my vacation motoring through Texas and New Mexico with Dr.
O. F. Gober-one of the medical executives of the Santa Fe railway. His exact title was
chief physician of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Hospital Association. We got to
talking about the effects of worry, and he said: Seventy per cent of all patients who
come to physicians could cure themselves if they only got rid of their fears and worries.
Don't think for a moment that I mean that their ills are imaginary," he said. "Their ills
are as real as a throbbing toothache and sometimes a hundred times more serious. I
refer to such illnesses as nervous indigestion, some stomach ulcers, heart disturbances,
insomnia, some headaches, and some types of paralysis.
"These illnesses are real. I know what I am talking about," said Dr. Gober, "for I myself
suffered from a stomach ulcer for twelve years.
"Fear causes worry. Worry makes you tense and nervous and affects the nerves of your
stomach and actually changes the gastric juices of your stomach from normal to
abnormal and often leads to stomach ulcers."
Dr. Joseph F. Montague, author of the book Nervous Stomach Trouble, says much the
same thing. He says: "You do not get stomach ulcers from what you eat. You get ulcers
from what is eating you."
Dr. W.C. Alvarez, of the Mayo Clinic, said "Ulcers frequently flare up or subside
according to the hills and valleys of emotional stress."
That statement was backed up by a study of 15,000 patients treated for stomach
disorders at the Mayo Clinic. Four out of five had no physical basis whatever for their
stomach illnesses. Fear, worry, hate, supreme selfishness, and the inability to adjust
themselves to the world of reality-these were largely the causes of their stomach
illnesses and stomach ulcers. ... Stomach ulcers can kill you. According to Life
magazine, they now stand tenth in our list of fatal diseases.
I recently had some correspondence with Dr. Harold C. Habein of the Mayo Clinic. He
read a paper at the annual meeting of the American Association of Industrial Physicians
and Surgeons, saying that he had made a study of 176 business executives whose
average age was 44.3 years. He reported that slightly more than a third of these
executives suffered from one of three ailments peculiar to high-tension living-heart
disease, digestive-tract ulcers, and high blood pressure. Think of it- a third of our
business executives are wrecking their bodies with heart disease, ulcers, and high blood
pressure before they even reach forty-five. What price success! And they aren't even
buying success! Can any man possibly be a success who is paying for business
advancement with stomach ulcers and heart trouble? What shall it profit a man if he
gains the whole world-and loses his health? Even if he owned the whole world, he could
sleep in only one bed at a time and eat only three meals a day. Even a ditch-digger can
do that-and probably sleep more soundly and enjoy his food more than a high-powered
executive. Frankly, I would rather be a share-cropper down in Alabama with a banjo on
my knee than wreck my health at forty-five by trying to run a railroad or a cigarette
And speaking of cigarettes-the best-known cigarette manufacturer in the world recently
dropped dead from heart failure while trying to take a little recreation in the Canadian
woods. He amassed millions-and fell dead at sixty-one. He probably traded years of his
life for what is called "business success".
In my estimation, this cigarette executive with all his millions was not half as successful
as my father-a Missouri farmer- who died at eighty-nine without a dollar.
The famous Mayo brothers declared that more than half of our hospital beds are
occupied by people with nervous troubles. Yet, when the nerves of these people are
studied under a high-powered microscope in a post-mortem examination, their nerves in
most cases are apparently as healthy as the nerves of Jack Dempsey. Their "nervous
troubles" are caused not by a physical deterioration of the nerves, but by emotions of
futility, frustration, anxiety, worry, fear, defeat, despair. Plato said that "the greatest
mistake physicians make is that they attempt to cure the body without attempting to
cure the mind; yet the mind and body are one and should not be treated separately!"
It took medical science twenty-three hundred years to recognise this great truth. We
are just now beginning to develop a new kind of medicine called psychosomatic
medicine-a medicine that treats both the mind and the body. It is high time we were
doing that, for medical science has largely wiped out the terrible diseases caused by
physical germs--diseases such as smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, and scores of other
scourges that swept untold millions into untimely graves. But medical science has been
unable to cope with the mental and physical wrecks caused, not by germs, but by
emotions of worry, fear, hate, frustration, and despair. Casualties caused by these
emotional diseases are mounting and spreading with catastrophic rapidity.
Doctors figure that one American in every twenty now alive will spend a part of his life
in an institution for the mentally ill. One out of every six of our young men called up by
the draft in the Second World War was rejected as mentally diseased or defective.
What causes insanity? No one knows all the answers. But it is highly probable that in
many cases fear and worry are contributing factors. The anxious and harassed individual
who is unable to cope with the harsh world of reality breaks off all contact with his
environment and retreats into a private dream world of his own making, and this solves
his worry problems.
As I write I have on my desk a book by Dr. Edward Podolsky entitled Stop Worrying and
Get Well. Here are some of the chapter titles in that book:
What Worry Does To The Heart
High Blood Pressure Is Fed By Worry
Rheumatism Can Be Caused By Worry
Worry Less For Your Stomach's Sake
How Worry Can Cause A Cold
Worry And The Thyroid
The Worrying Diabetic
Another illuminating book about worry is lion Against Himself, by Dr. Karl Menninger,
one of the "Mayo brothers of psychiatry." Dr. Menninger's book is a startling revelation of
what you do to yourself when you permit destructive emotions to dominate your life. If
you want to stop working against yourself, get this book. Read it. Give it to your friends.
It costs four dollars-and is one of the best investments you can make in this life.
Worry can make even the most stolid person ill. General Grant discovered that during
the closing days of the Civil War. The story goes like this: Grant had been besieging
Richmond for nine months. General Lee's troops, ragged and hungry, were beaten.
Entire regiments were deserting at a time. Others were holding prayer meetings in their
tents-shouting, weeping, seeing visions. The end was close. Lee's men set fire to the
cotton and tobacco warehouses in Richmond, burned the arsenal, and fled from the city
at night while towering flames roared up into darkness. Grant was in hot pursuit,
banging away at the Confederates from both sides and the rear, while Sheridan's cavalry
was heading them off in front, tearing up railway lines and capturing supply trains.
Grant, half blind with a violent sick headache, fell behind his army and stopped at a
farmhouse. "I spent the night," he records in his Memoirs, "in bathing my feet in hot
water and mustard, and putting mustard plasters on my wrists and the back part of my
neck, hoping to be cured by morning."
The next morning, he was cured instantaneously. And the tiling that cured him was not
a mustard plaster, but a horseman galloping down the road with a letter from Lee,
saying he wanted to surrender.
"When the officer [bearing the message] reached me," Grant wrote, "I was still suffering
with the sick headache, but the instant I saw the contents of the note, I was cured."
Obviously it was Grant's worries, tensions, and emotions that made him ill. He was cured
instantly the moment his emotions took on the hue of confidence, achievement, and
Seventy years later, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury in Franklin D.
Roosevelt's cabinet, discovered that worry could make him so ill that he was dizzy. He
records in his diary that he was terribly worried when the President, in order to raise
the price of wheat, bought 4,400,000 bushels in one day. He says in his diary: "I felt
literally dizzy while the thing was going on. I went home and went to bed for two hours
after lunch."
If I want to see what worry does to people, I don't have to go to a library or a physician.
I can look out of the window of my home where I am writing this book; and I can see,
within one block, one house where worry caused a nervous breakdown-and another
house where a man worried himself into diabetes. When the stock market went down,
the sugar in his blood and urine went up.
When Montaigne, the illustrious French philosopher, was elected Mayor of his home
town-Bordeaux-he said to his fellow citizens: "I am willing to take your affairs into my
hands but not into my liver and lungs."
This neighbour of mine took the affairs of the stock market into the blood stream-and
almost killed himself.
Worry can put you into a wheel chair with rheumatism and arthritis. Dr. Russell L. Cecil,
of the Cornell University Medical School, is a world-recognised authority on arthritis;
and he has listed four of the commonest conditions that bring on arthritis:
1. Marital shipwreck.
2. Financial disaster and grief.
3. Loneliness and worry.
4. Long-cherished resentments.
Naturally, these four emotional situations are far from being the only causes of arthritis.
There are many different kinds of arthritis-due to various causes. But, to repeat, the
commonest conditions that bring on arthritis are the four listed by Dr. Russell L. Cecil.
For example, a friend of mine was so hard bit during the depression that the gas
company shut off the gas and the bank foreclosed the mortgage on the house. His wife
suddenly had a painful attack of arthritis-and, in spite of medicine and diets, the
arthritis continued until their financial situation improved.
Worry can even cause tooth decay. Dr. William I.L. McGonigle said in an address before
the American Dental Association that "unpleasant emotions such as those caused by
worry, fear, nagging ... may upset the body's calcium balance and cause tooth decay".
Dr. McGonigle told of a patient of his who had always had a perfect set of teeth until he
began to worry over his wife's sudden illness. During the three weeks she was in the
hospital, he developed nine cavities- cavities brought on by worry.
Have you ever seen a person with an acutely over-active thyroid? I have, and I can tell
you they tremble; they shake; they look like someone half scared to death-and that's
about what it amounts to. The thyroid gland, the gland that regulates the body, has
been thrown out of kilter. It speeds up the heart -the whole body is roaring away at full
blast like a furnace with all its draughts wide open. And if this isn't checked, by
operation or treatment, the victim may die, may "burn himself out".
A short time ago I went to Philadelphia with a friend of mine who has this disease. We
went to see a famous specialist, a doctor who has been treating this type of ailment for
thirty-eight years. And what sort of advice do you suppose he had hanging on the wall of
his waiting-room-painted on a large wooden sign so all his patients could see it? Here it
is. I copied it down on the back of an envelope while I was waiting:
Relaxation and Recreation
The most relaxing recreating forces are a healthy
religion, sleep, music, and laughter.
Have faith in God-learn to sleep wellLove good music-see the funny side of lifeAnd health and happiness will be yours.
The first question he asked this friend of mine was: "What emotional disturbance
brought on this condition?" He warned my friend that, if he didn't stop worrying, he
could get other complications: heart trouble, stomach ulcers, or diabetes. "All of these
diseases," said that eminent doctor, "are cousins, first cousins." Sure, they're first
cousins-they're all worry diseases!
When I interviewed Merle Oberon, she told me that she refused to worry because she
knew that worry would destroy her chief asset on the motion-picture screen: her good
"When I first tried to break into the movies," she told me, "I was worried and scared. I
had just come from India, and I didn't know anyone in London, where I was trying to get
a job. I saw a few producers, but none of them hired me; and the little money I had
began to give out. For two weeks I lived on nothing but crackers and water. I was not
only worried now. I was hungry. I said to myself: 'Maybe you're a fool. Maybe you will
neuer break into the movies. After all, you have no experience, you've never acted at
all-what have you to offer but a rather pretty face?'
"I went to the mirror. And when I looked in that mirror, I saw what worry was doing to
my looks! I saw the lines it was forming. I saw the anxious expression. So I said to
myself: 'You've got to stop this at once! You can't afford to worry. The only thing you
have to offer at all is your looks, and worry will ruin them I'"
Few things can age and sour a woman and destroy her looks as quickly as worry. Worry
curdles the expression. It makes us clench our jaws and lines our faces with wrinkles. It
forms a permanent scowl. It may turn the hair grey, and in some cases, even make it
fall out. It can ruin the complexion- it can bring on all kinds of skin rashes, eruptions,
and pimples.
Heart disease, is the number-one killer in America today. During the Second World War,
almost a third of a million men were killed in combat; but during that same period,
heart disease killed two million civilians-and one million of those casualties were caused
by the kind of heart disease that is brought on by worry and high-tension living. Yes,
heart disease is one of the chief reasons why Dr. Alexis Carrel said: "Business men who
do not know how to fight worry die young."
The Negroes down south and the Chinese rarely have the kind of heart disease brought
on by worry, because they take things calmly. Twenty times as many doctors as farm
workers die from heart failure. The doctors lead tense lives-and pay the penalty.
"The Lord may forgive us our sins," said William James, "but the nervous system never
Here is a startling and almost incredible fact: more Americans commit suicide each year
than die from the five most common communicable diseases.
Why? The answer is largely: "Worry."
When the cruel Chinese war lords wanted to torture their prisoners, they would tie their
prisoners hand and foot and put them under a bag of water that constantly dripped ...
dripped ... dripped ... day and night. These drops of water constantly falling on the
head finally became like the sound of hammer blows-and drove men insane. This same
method of torture was used during the Spanish Inquisition and in German concentration
camps under Hitler.
Worry is like the constant drip, drip, drip of water; and the constant drip, drip, drip of
worry often drives men to insanity and suicide.
When I was a country lad in Missouri, I was half scared to death by listening to Billy
Sunday describe the hell-fires of the next world. But he never ever mentioned the hellfires of physical agony that worriers may have here and now. For example, if you are a
chronic worrier, you may be stricken some day with one of the most excruciating pains
ever endured by man: angina pectoris.
Boy, if that ever hits you, you will scream with agony. Your screams will make the
sounds in Dante's Inferno sound like Babes in Toyland. You will say to yourself then: "Oh,
God, oh, God, if I can ever get over this, I will never worry about anything-ever." (If you
think I am exaggerating, ask your family physician.)
Do you love life? Do you want to live long and enjoy good health? Here is how you can do
it. I am quoting Dr. Alexis Carrel again. He said: "Those who keep the peace of their
inner selves in the midst of the tumult of the modern city are immune from nervous
Can you keep the peace of your inner self in the midst of the tumult of a modem city? If
you are a normal person, the answer is "yes". "Emphatically yes." Most of us are stronger
than we realise. We have inner resources that we have probably never tapped. As
Thoreau said in his immortal book, Walden:
"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate
his life by a conscious endeavour. ... If one advances confidently in the direction of his
dreams, and endeavours to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success
unexpected in common hours."
Surely, many of the readers of this book have as much will power and as many inner
resources as Olga K. Jarvey has. Her address is Box 892, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. She
discovered that under the most tragic circumstances she could banish worry. I firmly
believe that you and I can also-if we apply the old, old truths discussed in this volume.
Here is Olga K. Jarvey's story as she wrote it for me: "Eight and a half years ago, I was
condemned to die-a slow, agonising death-of cancer. The best medical brains of the
country, the Mayo brothers, confirmed the sentence. I was at a dead-end street, the
ultimate gaped at me! I was young. I did not want to die! In my desperation, I phoned to
my doctor at Kellogg and cried out to him the despair in my heart. Rather impatiently
he upbraided me: 'What's the matter, Olga, haven't you any fight in you? Sure, you will
die if you keep on crying. Yes, the worst has overtaken you. O.K.-face the facts! Quit
worrying 1 And then do something about it!' Right then and there I took an oath, an oath
so solemn that the nails sank deep into my flesh and cold chills ran down my spine: 'I am
not going to worry! I am not going to cry! And if there is anything to mind over matter, I
am going to win! I am going to LIVE!'
"The usual amount of X-ray in such advanced cases, where they cannot apply radium, is
10 1/2 minutes a day for 30 days. They gave me X-ray for 14 1/2 minutes a day for 49
days; and although my bones stuck out of my emaciated body like rocks on a barren
hillside, and although my feet were like lead, I did not worry! Not once did I cry! I
smiled! Yes, I actually forced myself to smile.
"I am not so foolish as to imagine that merely smiling can cure cancer. But I do believe
that a cheerful mental attitude helps the body fight disease. At any rate, I experienced
one of the miracle cures of cancer. I have never been healthier than in the last few
years, thanks to those challenging, fighting words of Dr. McCaffery: 'Face the facts:
Quite worrying; then do something about it!'"
I am going to close this chapter by repeating its title: the words of Dr. Alexis Carrel:
"Business men who do not know how to fight worry die young."
The fanatical followers of the prophet Mohammed often had verses from the Koran
tattooed on their breasts. I would like to have the title of this chapter tattooed on the
breast of every reader of this book: "Business men who do not know how to fight worry
die young."
Was Dr. Carrel speaking of you?
Could be.
Part One In A Nutshell
RULE 1: If you want to avoid worry, do what Sir William Osier did: Live in "day-tight
compartments". Don't stew about the future. Just live each day until bedtime.
RULE 2: The next time Trouble-with a capital T- comes gunning for you and backs you up
in a corner, try the magic formula of Willis H. Carrier:
a. Ask yourself, "What is the worst that can possibly happen if I can't solve my problem?"
b. Prepare yourself mentally to accept the worst-if necessary.
c. Then calmly try to improve upon the worst-which you have already mentally • agreed
to accept.
RULE 3: Remind yourself of the exorbitant price you can pay for worry in terms of your
health. "Business men who do not know how to fight worry die young."
Part Two - Basic Techniques In Analysing Worry 

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