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The Anxiety Trust Test: Can You Trust Your Anxious Thoughts?

June 28, 2020 George Abitante

Using a trust test for anxiety helps you decide whether you should trust what your anxiety tells you. Often, anxiety comes on too quickly for us to do much about it, and we easily get swept up by the intensity of our anxiety. Whether we know it or not, this happens in part because we implicitly accept that our anxiety is trustworthy and only shares true information.

In those first moments of anxiety, it's hard to check how often those feelings of anxiety have accurately signaled something bad happening. One way to handle this challenge is to use an anxiety trust test. This test will use a few short questions you can ask yourself quickly when you notice anxiety hitting from out of the blue. An anxiety trust test can help you break out of the anxiety cycle faster and get you feeling better more quickly.

Why Should I Use an Anxiety Trust Test?

The idea behind an anxiety trust test is to make sure whatever symptoms of anxiety you're experiencing are actually trustworthy and reliable sources. Anxiety doesn't only occur when something threatening is happening, and when it comes from out of the blue, it can be difficult to move past.

When we understand why those feelings come up, it's a lot easier to handle than when they rise up for no real reason. I've found that the times I've felt anxiety from out of the blue, I got swept up by it and sometimes kept feeling anxious even hours after I first noticed it starting. Those feelings of anxiety feel so true and accurate to me when they first start, and that is often why I engage with them and exacerbate with anxious thinking.

The anxiety trust test is important because it intercedes at the beginning of a random bout of anxiety and helps deescalate before it can build up significantly. The key is to rigorously test your anxiety, just as you might make sure a website is safe before purchasing a product there. Below, I share three questions I use to test my anxiety. 

Create Your Anxiety Trust Test

  1. Is this anxiety? Before anything else, start by checking in with yourself as a reminder that what you're feeling is anxiety, and you've felt that before. Sometimes anxiety tricks us into thinking something is wrong because it feels a little bit different from what we've experienced before. Taking a moment to notice that it's not actually something different can be a huge help because you can then start comparing it to other times you've felt anxious in the past. 
  2. Has this happened before? Once you've identified that you're experiencing anxiety and it is therefore something you can manage, you may feel a bit calmer and can then think back to other times you felt anxious. Keeping a journal can be a great way to make this step easier because it gives you a clear window to what you felt last time and what happened. Look back at what happened the last time you felt anxious and use that as a reference for whether what you're feeling should worry you. Usually, the feeling of anxiety is much greater than the actual danger surrounding it, so this will provide another reminder that your anxiety isn't always trustworthy.
  3. Is it decreasing? After asking the first two questions, you'll start to feel more relaxed (though still anxious), and can then start checking whether your anxiety is decreasing. Anxiety tends to decrease when we don't build it up with anxious thoughts, so pull out your phone or watch and wait 30 seconds. After that time has passed, check in with yourself and see if you feel less anxious than you did 30 seconds ago. If you feel even a little bit less anxious, this is a good sign that your anxiety was not actually warning you of legitimate danger. 

Anxiety always speaks to us in compelling language, but it rarely tells the truth. Using this anxiety trust test can help you break out of anxiety and get back to your day quickly and easily.

Do you have other questions to add to the anxiety trust test? Please share them below.

APA Reference
Abitante, G. (2020, June 28). The Anxiety Trust Test: Can You Trust Your Anxious Thoughts?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2020/6/the-anxiety-trust-test-can-you-trust-your-anxious-thoughts



Author: George Abitante

George received his Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University and is pursuing his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Vanderbilt University. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @AbitanteGeorge.

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