How I Silence the Anxious Voice in My Head

Thursday, October 23 2014 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

The anxious voice in my head rambles on about everything that is or can go wrong, but the voice of anxiety usually lies. Learn how to silence the anxious voice.

I hear an anxious voice in my head. The voice I hear is not related to psychosis, but speaks to me loudly and clearly nevertheless. The anxious voice in my head belongs to anxiety, and its running commentary on what I'm doing wrong never seems to shut up.

The anxious voice harps at me incessantly. I don’t experience it as an actual sound, a hallucination, but I definitely “hear” it as inner speech. Anxiety makes my mind think certain things and tell me those things in no uncertain terms and thus acts as an actual voice, not of reason, but of fear.

The Anxious Voice in My Head Is Self-Talk

Anxiety can harp at us like an actual voice, telling us things that increase our worries and fears. We can silence the voice of anxiety.For someone living with anxiety, the voice—or anxious self-talk—can be overbearing. For me, as I work at my computer writing this column or a blog on my website or my novel, my brain is concentrating on what I’m doing, but there is the anxious voice in my head that chatters on simultaneously with my other thoughts. As I tap, tap, tap on my keyboard, anxiety tells me “this is stupid and horrible.” As I sit in a meeting, anxiety shouts at me, “you’re not acting right; you’re too quiet, too talkative, too not good enough.” As I’m watching one of my kids’ sporting events, my anxiety tells me that something is going to go horribly wrong.

And on it goes. No matter what I’m doing, anxiety babbles and rants at me.

This inner mental chatter is very common in anxiety disorders. Because each individual is different, the voice of anxiety sounds a bit different for each person. There are, however, common themes among anxiety’s blather.

Worry and fear can be similar. They are different degrees of the what-ifs that seem to exist as a stream-of-consciousness in people living with anxiety. Anxiety’s obsessive voices won’t let us let go of a thought. It’s challenging to move past an obsessive thought when anxiety keeps talking to you about it, isn’t it? Self-criticism is another common theme among those who live with anxiety. Anxiety likes to bully people, talking to us ad nauseam over every single fault we have.

Quieting the Anxious Voice in Your Head

You don’t have to be badgered by anxiety’s voices for the rest of your life. To borrow from Pink’s song “Perfect,” it is possible to change those voices in your head--possible, absolutely, but quick and easy, not so much. If you’ve ever attempted to put a child to bed, you might have noticed that he or she becomes a little chatterbox right at bedtime. Stories spill out and overflow. It seems that their little voices will never be quiet. Eventually, though, the voices stop talking. So it is with anxiety and its voices. Here are a few tips:

  • Ignore anxiety’s words. Sometimes, this actually works. If anxiety is telling you something worrisome, dismiss it and move on to a different thought.
  • Find flow. Flow is a state of well-being in which one is fully immersed in what he/she is doing. Anything you enjoy can induce flow. When you’re in flow, you are thinking only of what you’re doing. Anxiety is quiet. Find a hobby you love, an activity, anything you can get lost in. When you’re lost in a positive way like this, anxiety’s voice can’t find you.
  • If anxiety tells you something that increases your fear or an obsession, argue with it. Throw evidence to the contrary in its face. For example, every time you get into your car the voice of anxiety tells you you’re going to get into an accident, tell it, yes, accidents happen, but you’ve driven many times without them.

Anxiety likes to have a voice. It means it’s heard (by us) and it has power (over us). Good thing those voices in our heads can be silenced.

Connect with Tanya on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, her books, and her website.

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and four critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

View all posts by Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC.

How I Silence the Anxious Voice in My Head

Joy Walker
says:
June, 22 2017 at 3:31 pm

Do you experience anxiety as a separate voice in your head (as if it were a different person), or do you experience it as your own voice? Personally, it used to sound like myself beating myself up, but now it feels like someone else beating me up.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 23 2017 at 12:10 pm

Hi Joy,
The experience of "voices" is unique to each person. For me, it represents my own self-talk, so it's the experience of my own voice. Sometimes when it becomes a separate voice it might (but not always) be considered a form of psychosis (psychosis just means experiencing hallucinations or delusions -- things that aren't real but are interpreted as real). If it becomes bothersome, you might consider checking it out with a doctor or mental health professional just to see what's going on and determine a plan for minimizing it.

Eddie
says:
December, 6 2017 at 5:19 am

The voice of anxiety can cause obseession thoughts like when I'm with my cat, kill him. Then I get scared and my anxiety wants to attack. I have science that are is mental voice and she speaks with my voice, does this fit as in the article?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 21 2018 at 5:03 pm

Hi Eddie,
There are different types of voices. Some are related to anxiety, while others are related to different types of obsessions or psychotic disorders (which can involve hallucinations like hearing voices.) The nature of the voices can be hard to determine sometimes, but working with a doctor can help. If you are bothered by the voices, you might find it good to see a doctor or a therapist. There are people that can help.

Jay
says:
January, 12 2018 at 1:37 am

I have this saved to my home page and I read every time anxiety is starting to overwhelm me. I find it very helpful, thank you.

Maria
says:
May, 7 2018 at 8:20 am

30/Female, I’m struggling with this so bad here recently i had A nervous breakdown and it (self-talk) hasn’t left my side. It makes day to day life hard to deal with. The only way i can explain it is talking to myself in my head constantly as if I’m narrating everything I’m doing. I aslo repeat words and songs like broken records. I want out of my head so bad. I hope This little bit of info helps.

Sonia
says:
July, 8 2018 at 5:32 pm

My daughter is 22 and suffered with bullying At school which had a knock on effect with her lack of self confidence self esteem and how she looks she battles with this on a daily basis and now says in her mind someone is telling her to self harm herself to make her feel better what does this disorder actually mean ie is it depression

July, 10 2018 at 12:08 pm

Hi Sonia,
Bullying can have a long-term impact, as you're seeing with your daughter. If she is hearing someone telling her to harm herself, it's a very good idea to have her see a doctor or mental health professional for help. Figuring out where to start can be daunting. These resources might be helpful. Seeking professional help for your daughter could prevent self harm and help her heal.

Where to Find Mental Health Help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/i-need-…

Types of Mental Health Doctors and How to Find One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-o…

Types of Mental Health Counselors: Finding a Good One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-o…

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