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9 things you do not realise your anxiety causes you to do

If there is one message we shout from the rooftops at Anxiety Leeds it is that you are not alone. In fact, your experiences are remarkably similar to other people's. Sorry, I hope you did not feel special.

This means that anxiety is predictable. In fact, I bet I can predict some of the things that you do. Maybe I can even predict them better than you can. What do you think?

Every item on this list will not apply to everyone. Some are for specific types of anxiety and apply for particular personalities and situations. However, my guess is that you will have at least one "yes! I do that" moment.

Getting involved in too many things

The problem with the anxious mind is that it never turns off. It constantly has thoughts running through it, and when it has nothing else to think about, it turns to worry.

There is a solution to this: fill it full of so many things to worry about that you do not have time to have the existential crises.

This is why people with anxiety often find themselves as the organisers. They arrange all of the social gatherings, the family events, the clubs and societies they are involved with. We join the committees of a million different things because we want to give our minds something else to think about.

Using alcohol to self-medicate

You do not have to know anything about anxiety to work out that you have unpleasant feelings and when you fill your body with alcohol, these feelings temporarily go away.

Using alcohol to self-medicate is not a healthy habit, but it is an understandable one. The reality is that alcohol is effective in realising the symptoms of anxiety.

There are better ways to deal with the feelings. However, it is not uncommon for us to use alcohol as a crutch.

Checking for the fire exists

Whether it is social anxiety, claustrophobia or agoraphobia, anxiety sufferers often find themselves scouting out the exits. This may be conscious or unconscious: a quick glance around to see where the nearest energy light is. A scan of all available exits so you can work out how to get away in an emergency.

You may also find yourself avoiding situations where escape is difficult. Sitting in the middle of a row at the theatre, or going on boat trips or using trains, for example.

Using self-deprecating humour

You are worried people will make fun of you, so you jump in there first and make the jokes. I use self-depreciated humour all of the time. In fact, it is the only kind of humour I can do.

It is also a classic safety behaviour for anxiety sufferers. If you can be the one making the jokes, you shield yourself from embarrassment by an extra layer: it is hard for people to mock you and make you feel small when you initiate the fun.

Over-thinking every invitation

Accepting an invitation to a social event, party, dinner, etc, is never a simple task when you have anxiety. Take dinner, for example. Who is going to be there? Is it just you and your friend, or are there more people?

What food will they cook? What if you do not like it? What do you need to bring? Do you need to invite them over for dinner in return? Will you have time to get home from work, get changed and get there? How will you get there? What if you are late?

The questions go on and on and on. Guess what: it is the anxiety talking.

Using your phone at every available opportunity

How did people live before mobile phones? You arrive to meet a friend, and they are not there: you pull out your phone. You are on the bus by yourself: you pull out your phone. You are sitting by yourself at a party: guess what...

Worse, you realise you have gone the wrong way, and you need to change direction. But you could not possibly do that without checking your phone and pretending you have received a text in case a random passer-by shouts "look at that person! They have gone the wrong way, and now they're going back!"

Your phone acts as a safety behaviour. We cannot just sit and think anymore. We have to pretend we are doing something, even if it just constantly pulling to refresh on the Facebook app.

Feeling like you have to keep up the conversation

The conversation has died. Awkward. Worse, you think it is your responsibly to keep it going. You begin to pressure yourself: it is your job to say something witty and entertaining. You must be the fun person you want everything to think you are.

In reality, the other person is equally responsible for keeping up the conversation. However, it rarely feels like that in the moment.

Using Street View to find your destination

In the olden days, people would set off with a paper map and a sense of optimism. It is rare we do that these days, especially when you have anxiety.

We look up the exact route we plan to take. We memorise landmarks along the way and use Street View to find the exact door we need to go through to get where we are going.

If we get lost, we could not possibly ask someone for directions. Much better to fumble around on the maps app on your phone to try and find the way.

Endlessly second-guessing yourself

When you have to choose, making a decision should be the end of it. But it is not when you have anxiety. It is just the start of a process of endlessly asking yourself "did I make the correct decision?"

Even though there is no new information, we go over the facts again and again in our mind, double-checking that we have not missed anything. We never have. What is the point of this worry?


Maybe you identified with many of the points on this list. Or maybe you identified just one. The point is that I know nothing about you, other than that you are reading a blog about anxiety. And yet I still managed to tell you something about yourself.

How did I do it? It is not magic. It is because anxiety produces predictable and systematic results in people. The same things you experience, I experience too. It is the anxiety talking.

Sometimes, we may not realise we are doing these things. It is sneaky like that. However, by spotting these patterns, we can begin to challenge whether these thoughts are correct.


Published 26 June 2017. Written by Chris Worfolk.

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