It can be challenging to separate the truth from anxiety’s deception. Many of us are unable to tell our “anxiety” voice from our “wise” voice. Anxiety’s lies create doubt, fear, and trepidation–even when there is no evidence to prompt these feelings. 

Paradoxically, because of anxiety, we may be more vulnerable to anxiety’s baseless claims. If you already experience strange physical sensations, wonder if you’re crazy, and think at a mile a minute, it’s easier to believe that your worst case scenarios might be true. Anxiety wins again.

So, how does anxiety lie? And how can you give yourself a reality check?

How your anxiety is lying to you

Anxiety changes your internal compass, making it harder to notice its lies. It can also create self-fulfilling prophecies.

Anxiety can change how your brain functions

The amygdala is a brain region related to your experience of and responses to anxiety. People with anxiety tend to have over-active and larger amygdalas, meaning that it’s easier to experience a stress response after a given event. 

Your anxiety might be putting you into a physiological loop that lies to you by exaggerating threats.

Reality check: Your brain structures don’t doom you to a future of endless anxiety. According to extensive research by Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, meditation can significantly alter amygdala function. Medications may be prescribed for anxiety treatment, but they have the potential to cause serious side effects. Meditation, on the other hand, has no negative side effects and is the most simple and effective method to overcome one’s biology.

Anxiety creates cognitive distortions

Cognitive distortions are when your brain over- or under-exaggerates information it receives. For example, anxiety can make you feel like a simple mistake is a permanent failure. On the other end of the spectrum, anxiety can cause you to minimize positive feedback, so you never recognize when you’ve done a good job.

  • Anxiety convinces you that you’re in danger, even when you’re not.
    When our anxiety levels are high, our brains are constantly looking for threats. We might stay away from new experiences, conversations, job opportunities, and social gatherings because they all make us feel unsafe. However, avoiding people out of fear is not helpful either. Through techniques like CBT and DBT, you can learn to recognize genuine danger and develop self-preservation skills.
  • Anxiety makes you believe you’re worth less than other people.
    We might worry that asking for help will make other people feel burdened, or that they will think less of us. We might fear getting in trouble for asking for what we deserve.
  • Anxiety tells you that you’re a failure, when you just messed up.
    The root cause of worry is a desire for control. There is more control involved in KNOWING that you’re a failure, than thinking you might possibly mess up at any random time. To get around feeling like a failure, we must acknowledge that there are some things we cannot control.
  • Anxiety makes you feel you’re not a beautiful human being.
    We can come to believe that we are bad people because of anxiety. It makes us feel hate and self-doubt. It limits our ability to accomplish whatever we’ve ever desired to. This is undoubtedly the biggest deception since, if we work hard, success will come to us.

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Anxiety can cause rumination

According to Dina Scolan, LCPC, “Rumination is defined as engaging in a repetitive negative thought process that loops continuously in the mind without end or completion. The pattern can be distressing, difficult to stop, and unusually involves repeating a negative thought or trying to solve an evasive problem.” You could also call it overthinking or overanalyzing.

Reality check: When you ruminate or overthink about something, you don’t give yourself a chance to rest, or to see the full picture.

Anxiety can create self-fulfilling prophecies

By overanalyzing all the things that can go wrong, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy in which your anxiety’s lies come true.

  • Overthinking may cause you to see problems where there aren’t any
  • Overanalyzing can make you feel like people hate you when they don’t
  • Rumination makes problems seem bigger or more insurmountable than they are

Reality check: When you start to ruminate, ask yourself “Is there concrete evidence of a problem?” If not, distract yourself or focus on something else. Instead of trying to read others’ minds, overanalyzing, or anticipating confrontation, try not to worry about things unless someone has actually stated there’s a problem.

How to move forward when your anxiety is lying to you

Relieve stress and analyze the lie: Get that extra energy out first; that’s a fantastic way to calm yourself. Perform jumping jacks, shake your arms, legs, and body vigorously, or stair climb for a few minutes.

Start observing your thoughts as a next step. Think of yourself as an observer, watching your thoughts as if they were a slideshow.

Return to reality: Anxiety’s black-and-white thinking rejects the existence of gray areas in life, often forcing you to believe one lie or another. Life can be complicated and unclear at times, and it is impossible to know everything with absolute certainty.

You’re now prepared to identify and address any false beliefs or information causing your anxiety. Writing down your ideas as you go might be beneficial for getting them out of your head and allowing you to see them clearly.

Spend a moment checking in with yourself and going over ALL of the information.

Practice self-compassion and move forward with a clear lens: In order to establish opinions or make decisions with clarity, you must reflect on your cognitive processes. Then, go on and extend compassion to yourself. Disconnect from your racing thoughts, accept yourself as you are, and acknowledge your value–despite anxiety and its lies.

In conclusion

It’s totally normal to have anxious thoughts, and the objective is not to minimize your anxiety. But being aware of anxiety will help you be less vulnerable to its lies.

By recognizing when your anxiety is lying to you, you can combat your anxiety’s negative thoughts.

Then, you can defy the lies that your anxiety is trying to convince you with. Remember that they are not true, despite how persistent they may be.

You CAN overcome your anxiety because you are not your anxiety. The best part is that you don’t have to confront it alone. It can always help to talk it out, and we’re here 24/7. Click “Chat Now” to connect.