Four Common Ways Anxiety Manipulates You and Causes Symptoms

There are common ways that anxiety manipulates you and causes symptoms. Anxiety tries to control your life by manipulating you with these four tactics.

Anxiety manipulates you. It’s not just you, of course, but anxiety would like you to believe that it’s only you. Anxiety is insidious, creeping and crawling through your brain, your mind, and your body. Anxiety causes its own symptoms but blames them on you. When you live with anxiety, you are dealing with this thing that takes on a life of its own and controls how you view yourself, others, and the world in general. There are things anxiety does to manipulate you and cause symptoms.

Anxiety Causes Symptoms that Manipulate You

Anxiety exists on a scale from mild to debilitating; indeed, it can be an annoyance that slightly interferes in our life to a cage that traps us and shuts us out of our own quality life. Likewise, its symptoms range from mild to severe.

Symptoms of anxiety can be physical, emotional, cognitive (thought-related) or a combination of any or all of these. Anxiety impacts any part of the body, and it can mimic other conditions. Once, I was diagnosed with asthma because anxiety manifested itself in my respiratory system. When I realized this and called anxiety out for it, it moved to my digestive system and caused acid reflux. Everyone’s physical symptoms are unique to them. As if trying to turn your own body against you isn’t enough, anxiety manipulates how you feel and what you think.

How Anxiety Manipulates You

Anxiety wants to own you. To do that, it tries to perpetuate your symptoms by manipulating you. There are many ways anxiety keeps you trapped in a cage. These four are among the most common internal experiences anxiety creates:

  1. Self-doubt -- Anxiety makes us question ourselves. Are we good enough? Did we say the right thing? Did we offend someone? Once self-doubt creeps in, anxiety makes it grow and take over how we view ourselves.
  2. Fear -- A big part of anxiety is fear. Of course, phobias are about fear, but fear manifests in other ways, too. Fear of failure, fear of relationship problems, fear of just about anything that is important to you. Anxiety takes what is dear to you and makes you afraid of losing it.
  3. Worries, what-ifs, and worst-case scenarios -- These are closely related to fears. Anxiety keeps us under its control by making our what-ifs run rampant. It puts thoughts of the worst-case scenarios in our minds, effectively trapping us.
  4. Need for control -- We don’t want our fears to manifest, we hate being plagued by constant self-doubt, and we’re weary of our worries. To get rid of them, we focus on them, trying very hard to control them. This is another of anxiety’s manipulation tools. When we try to control anxiety, we’re paying attention to what we don’t want. That increases its power, and anxiety wins.

Being aware of these four ways anxiety manipulates you can help you beat anxiety at its own game. Notice what’s going on and gently turn away from it. Rather than remaining stuck, take your thoughts and actions in a different direction, away from anxiety's manipulative traps.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2017, July 20). Four Common Ways Anxiety Manipulates You and Causes Symptoms, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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