Explaining Anxiety Disorders and Self-Doubt to Non-Sufferers

June 17, 2014 Gabe Howard

Anxiety disorders manifest self-doubt in many ways. Undoubtedly, people living with anxiety disorders know different ways panic and anxiety challenge our lives. So today, I want to speak to the non-sufferer who does not understand. Loved ones need to know what anxiety disorders, and the massive amount of self-doubt they create, do to a person.

Anxiety and Self-Doubt: When Can I Trust Myself?

At the core of an anxiety disorder is not knowing when it is appropriate to trust our feelings. If a person can’t trust his or her own thoughts because they are saying there is danger when there clearly is not, how can the person trust anything?

In some cases, it is easy to know when feelings and reality are not in sync. As an example, if you feel the world is ending, the evidence around you should show that it is not. A standard therapy trick is to line up the facts that should contradict the little voice in our head so we can make the necessary adjustments to our feelings through logic.

It’s been established, however, that those of us with anxiety disorders can’t trust our own judgment. That little voice in our heads is pretty damn useless, all things considered, and therein lies the problem. Going back to my world ending analogy, it is easy to find “proof” the world is ending because our judgment of what constitutes proof is faulty.

Many people with anxiety disorders live in a world where every feeling and thought is up for evaluation. We must operate on the idea that if we can’t trust ourselves with minor decisions, we probably can’t trust ourselves with major ones. If no decision is truly free from the effects of this disorder, then all our feelings are suspect.

And It Works That Way in Reverse, Too

Conversely, if we can incorrectly read good or neutral situations as bad, isn't it just as likely that we can misread a bad situation as good? The same process that creates paranoia and/or anxiety out of nothing often completely misses mistakes. The great job we believe we’ve done is just as likely to be a horrible mistake. We just haven’t realized it, yet.

Even Managing Anxiety Leads to Self Doubt

The very act of managing anxiety leads people to doubt themselves because they must constantly check in with their own mind.

My day-in and day-out internal conversation always processes along these lines:

I feel as though I've done something right/wrong. But did I really? I can’t trust my feelings, so what objective information could I use to figure this out?

Self-doubt is an insidious symptom of an anxiety disorder. See how self-doubt plays a role in anxiety and why people with anxiety always doubt themselves.

And where do I look to find objective information? Turning to other people to validate thoughts and feelings is a dangerous game. At best, we begin mimicking their views. At worst, we choose the wrong people and their thoughts are ones that can hurt us further (How Did You Brainwash Me?).

The treatment many of us learn in therapy to control our anxiety disorder encourages us to doubt ourselves! Constantly looking to outside sources for information or reassurance is exhausting and reinforces the notion that our thoughts cannot be trusted. And reinforces to other people that they shouldn't trust our decisions, either.

I know that I can’t fully trust my own thoughts. I know my mind is broken. So when my mind tells me that I did a great job, wrote a great blog, or gave a great speech, how do I know it is true?

I don’t.

People living with anxiety disorders have to question their own thoughts and feelings every second of every day. Therapy, medication, experience, and trusted people in our lives can make it easier, but at the end of the day, we have to move forward with more self-doubt than non-sufferers could ever imagine.

You can find Gabe on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and his website.

APA Reference
Howard, G. (2014, June 17). Explaining Anxiety Disorders and Self-Doubt to Non-Sufferers, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Gabe Howard

Ash Lopez
April, 30 2019 at 7:34 pm

It's been three to four exhausting months. I don't usually know how to explain my anxiety. This is something new to me. I never had it. Or, had this. I don't know if I have a disorder but, I just know anxiety. Sometimes, its intense and ill have panic attacks. I'm learning to not let my thoughts carry me into panic attacks. Thank you for this! It explains exactly how I feel, always. Others don't always understand. I have just started therapy but I even doubt that. I've been having to make important decisions but, I always doubt that too. Well, I doubt and overthink I just try not to give into it.

May, 6 2019 at 12:53 pm

Coming to terms with one's anxiety, or whatever mental illness you may have, takes a lot of time. Be patient with yourself, and put in the necessary work - you'll come out of it a better person.

Over-Scusandosi con un disturbo d’ansia Im Not Sorry | Non si preoccupi
May, 7 2018 at 11:35 am

[…] Spesso mi chiedo dove tutto nasce da – questo eccessivo bisogno di scusarsi per tanti chi soffre di ansia. Naturalmente, siamo tutti diversi, ma per me è la sensazione di essere in qualche modo rosicchiare nel modo – una parte sciolto, una ruota di scorta e un fastidio (Ansia e dubbio di auto). […]

Jody Becena
August, 26 2016 at 6:40 pm

I do agree with all the ideas you have offered to your post. They’re very convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very short for beginners. May just you please lengthen them a little from next time? Thank you for the post.

August, 2 2016 at 3:57 pm

I've been going back and forth on whether I should post this or not. But I still can't figure out how to handle the doubt. Because I get these obsessive thoughts that don't go away. Sometimes I know it's anxiety and can put it out of my mind sometimes I get really anxious about it and can't focus on anything else. But when I'm anxious about whatever it is that time, it feels so real. The anxiety doesn't feel like it's just anxiety. It feels like something is really wrong. For example I had these horrible bouts of nausea that lasted weeks and because I've always had a fear of cancer I thought I had stomach cancer. And no matter what anyone said or did, as long as I was suffering from the nausea I was convinced I had cancer. It turned out to be acid reflux but the question is: Was that part of my anxiety disorder? Or would anyone be that anxious about stomach cancer just because of some nausea? I should mention I'm also bipolar so maybe that changes things but I don't know and I'm very anxious that all these things I'm worried about are not from the anxiety disorder but because they actually are a real threat to me, and it makes life almost impossible to navigate. And if it is just anxiety, how can I put it out of my mind if it feels so real?

January, 5 2016 at 12:44 pm

You have explained my anxiety disorder and thinking better than any shrink, counselor, and family member could explain to me what it is like. I have the same feelings and thoughts exactly. I seem to feel like my anxiety disorder is at bay, or should I say just hovering waiting for the next to obsessively worry about. I hope I can get to the acceptance part of accepting this is what I have, and tell myself "It's just the anxiety rearing it's ugly head, and roll with it!" I have read that once one accepts that is all it is, they tend to deal with it easier?

September, 10 2015 at 6:53 pm

I'm 46 years old and have suffered from GAD all my life. It has caused several major depressive episodes in my lifetime. I've read so many articles and have seen therapists, but this article has spoken to me more than anything I've read or learned about my disorder. I'm constantly questioning myself and it is exhausting at times. Sometimes, however, it makes me very thorough in my job and projects that I do. But, it takes me forever to let go of decisions that I've made in order to move forward. I hate that I dou myself so much.
Thanks for writing this article and sharing it. It feels good to know I'm not alone.

March, 17 2015 at 12:44 pm

This article helped me very very much. It comforted me more
than anything. I am diagnosed with GAD, and it causes major insecurity in myself and doubt in just about everything I do. It's causing problems in my relationship, that have become much more extreme as my anxiety takes over more and more, to the extent where I find it difficult to focus on the good times with him, because everything is I see is seen through such a negative filter. What you said about lining up the facts is very true. Although for some reason, the mind can overpower the facts. :( Wonderful article though. Definitely shows the mindset of someone suffering very clearly to those not suffering. Funny how sometimes it's hard to believe that everyone around us isn't filled with these thoughts as well, especially with paranoia/excessive worry.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
March, 17 2015 at 1:27 pm

Thank you Tory for your kind words and for commenting. Anxiety is a difficult things to live with -- but we can do it! :) ~Gabe

February, 20 2015 at 9:11 am

This is my living hell at the moment! My anxiety has made me doubt my very identity, I can't even enjoy hobbies anymore because me brain keeps me in this self doubt where I wonder if I'm even enjoying myself or 'doing things right' and that just ends up giving me more anxiety so I'm afraid to even start. And im so tired from it that everything gets muddled up in my brain anyway which leads to more anxiety and feeling worthless! Iv tried to explain it to my parents but really I know they don't get it.. Why would they? No one but people like us fully understand what it's like to question every thought and analyse if it ok/normal! I know when I have these thoughts that they are just thoughts and nothing more but constantly have to reassure myself is just exhausting! Sigh..

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
February, 20 2015 at 9:39 am

I understand completely, Laura! Constant reassuring is exhausting -- but it is also a coping skill. With practice, coping skills become easier. :) I believe in you. Thank you for reading and commenting! Stay Brave. :) ~Gabe

Sharalynne Robertson
February, 17 2015 at 11:56 pm

Thanks very much for that and it explains exactly how I feel! My problem is I don't know how or what is normal and I'm so scared of my future and just emotional about everything. But I'll be fine for ages then some little thing like not doing something right at work will be me straight back to feeling this way.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
February, 18 2015 at 7:28 am

I am glad you liked the article. Please keep reading and commenting -- we are glad to have you in our community! :) ~Gabe

October, 13 2014 at 8:09 am

Oh man; doubt is what "kills me the most! I stress out too often about illogical and irrational things of which I doubt. Good article

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
October, 14 2014 at 11:00 am

Thank you, Ryan! I appreciate that a lot. Thank you for reading and commenting. ~Gabe

July, 1 2014 at 2:52 pm

Thank you so much for putting into words what I feel everyday! You explained anxiety beautifully!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
July, 1 2014 at 7:04 pm

Hi Casey - Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I really appreciate your kind words. ~Gabe

John Chelladurai
June, 29 2014 at 9:18 am

This article has helped me to understand the link between anxiety and self doubt. Thank you

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
June, 29 2014 at 11:15 am

John, Thank you for reading and commenting and you are very welcome. I am glad you enjoyed it. Be Well! ~Gabe

June, 29 2014 at 7:22 am

So true, I am always trying to find the bottom line and not knowing where or how to look. When I was asked if I could go back to a difficult situation from the past what would help me feel better about it? It was to have something/someone validate my feelings that what I felt about what happened was right. To think that 45 years later I still doubt my observation of that what happened to me was as bad and abusive situation as it obviously was!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
June, 29 2014 at 11:14 am

Very good advice, Barbara. Thank you for reading and commenting. It is very much appreciated. ~Gabe

thomas johnson
June, 28 2014 at 4:41 pm

have a read of "the chimp paradox". Those negative feelings and voices come from your "chimp" which is the part of your brian that deals with emotions. It is very powerful, but can be managed by your human side, which deals with rational thinking.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
June, 29 2014 at 11:12 am

Thank you, Thomas, for reading and for the suggestion. I appreciate your comments as well. ~Gabe

Jennifer Todd
June, 28 2014 at 4:22 pm

i agree with the others. this was so on target for what i go through every day. i depend on my therapist a lot and to some extent my sister whom i live with. trusting the wrong people has been devastating to me in the past. i'm very careful now. thank you for a great article.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
June, 29 2014 at 11:10 am

Jennifer - I am glad you enjoyed the article. Thank you for reading and commenting. :) ~Gabe

June, 28 2014 at 1:46 pm

Thank you for the excellent way in which you describe the horrible burden of self-monitoring. It is simply exhausting. Great article.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
June, 29 2014 at 11:09 am

Ann - Thank you for reading and commenting and I am very glad you enjoyed the article. Please feel free to steal "mental illness isn't for the weak." If you think about, you can give me credit... But I don't monitor such things, so you'll be fine either way. :) :) :) Be Well and I hope you'll keep reading and commenting! ~Gabe

June, 25 2014 at 3:07 pm

Thank you. I enjoyed this article. I hadn't really thought about this being a part of my anxiety. I just figured I was unsure of myself or just have low self esteem. I tried to stop second guessing myself but it just seems to be a part of who I am. I figured I was careful about anything I did. It is difficult to manage. It is sometimes time consuming and overwhelming to say the least.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
June, 25 2014 at 3:11 pm

Hi Carmen - I am fond of saying that mental illness isn't for the weak. It is an ironic statement to say the least. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. It is much appreciated. :) ~Gabe

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 28 2014 at 1:48 pm

Hi Gabe. I love that "mental illness isn't for the weak." Full disclosure: I will probably be stealing that phrase. It's a great one!

Michelle Guido
June, 25 2014 at 2:55 pm

Excellent article.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
June, 25 2014 at 3:10 pm

Michelle - Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I also very much appreciate those kind words. Thank you! ~Gabe

June, 24 2014 at 9:13 pm

Thank you for writing this. I've noticed that I can't trust my own judgment. What makes it worse is when those around me realize that I don't trust myself and use that to their advantage, to manipulate me. Sadly, there are a lot of predators out there that see me and people like me as easy prey. Even those who claim to love us.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
June, 25 2014 at 9:16 am

MartyM - This is a common feeling and issue for people with all kinds of mental illness. I understand your frustration and pain. I always look for people I can trust and I just hope I have selected wisely. Thank you for reading and commenting. ~Gabe

Steve Avery
June, 20 2014 at 7:34 pm

I agree with Kendria. This was very informative. I ave developed memory problems and confusion seems to go along with it. I felt like I was going down a long tunnel and could see no way out. By writing out what I want in my future and marking small but positive goals toward that, I am slowly making progress. All the information that I can find on my disorder and direction that is pointed out to me keep me from giving up. I want my life back!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
June, 20 2014 at 8:16 pm

Thank you for reading and commenting. It means so much. Best, Gabe

June, 19 2014 at 2:30 pm

This was a great article. The last paragraph is probably the best thing I have read in helping describe to others what a day in my life is like. Thank you for posting this.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
June, 19 2014 at 2:33 pm

Gordonm- Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words. It means a lot to me. You are very welcome. ~Gabe

June, 17 2014 at 8:24 pm

thank you for sharing,this was very informative.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gabe Howard
June, 18 2014 at 7:53 am

Kendria - You are very welcome and I am glad that you liked the article. Thank you for reading and commenting. ~Gabe

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