Help! Anxiety Says Everything Is My Fault
"Anxiety says everything is my fault." This is a common lament and source of great stress for people living with anxiety. Believing that you're to blame for everything bad that happens--big or small--to people you care about is an effect of anxiety that is often overlooked. This form of self-blame is closely associated with depression. The feeling that "everything is my fault" is also very much part of anxiety. Understanding the relationship between anxiety and self-blame can help you recognize it and begin to separate yourself from the erroneous belief that it's all your fault.
Why Anxiety Says Everything Is Your Fault
"That thing that happened is your fault," screams anxiety. Whether it's something that happened right here--like your child having a terrible day at school--or a remote occurrence--such as a friend of yours breaking a leg while hiking on vacation-- it is, without question, your fault.
This belief in personal responsibility for the bad things that happen can come from any type of anxiety; however, it is strongly tied to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Believe it or not, this form of self-blame is a defense mechanism--a coping skill.
Generalized anxiety disorder involves excessive worry and fear that negative things will happen. People with GAD worry about themselves and people they care about. They might worry about the world at large and their own private world. Thoughts of "what if" haunt them day and night. It's frustrating and exhausting, and it causes physical and emotional symptoms as well as thought-related problems. Overthinking, worrying, creating (usually unwillingly) worst-case scenarios, and imagining fearful outcomes to events are all distressing components of GAD. Naturally, people want--need--this all to stop.
To stay afloat in a sea of anxieties, people need to feel a degree of control. Ironically, an attempt at gaining this control can come from the very root of GAD: excessive worrying.
In response to what-ifs, fears, and imagined worse-case scenarios, it's natural to worry. Usually, subconsciously, human beings form a connection between worrying about something and the result that might happen. If we worry enough, the bad thing we're afraid of won't happen. It's faulty logic, but it makes sense when you consider the depth of anxiety, fear, and emotional pain someone experiences with GAD. Consider someone worrying about his friend in another city. He isn't there to help the friend or keep her safe. She's on her own. Excessive worrying is, in his mind, the only thing he can do to try to keep her safe. But in his case, it didn't work. She had a car accident. If he genuinely believed at some level that worrying could keep her safe, the extension is that he was at fault for her accident.
Don't Let Anxiety Blame You for Everything
The man in the above example cared about his friend. Because he cared about her, he was concerned for her safety. Generalized anxiety disorder, though, took his concern and blew it out of proportion. His worries, fears for her safety, and imagined worst-case scenarios overwhelmed him. He needed control over the situation. Possibly subconsciously, he believed that if he worried enough, he could control her safety. When that didn't work, his GAD screamed, "Your friend was in an accident, and it was all your fault."
Anxiety is so loud about worries and fears and persistent about making you feel out of control regarding so many things in your life that trying to gain some control through your thoughts becomes an automatic response. By extension, the erroneous belief that everything bad that happens is your fault also becomes an automatic response.
In the below video, I share one way to begin to rid yourself of the effect of anxiety that says everything is your fault.
NCC, T. (2018, September 27). Help! Anxiety Says Everything Is My Fault, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2018/9/help-anxiety-says-everything-is-my-fault
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
I'm happy to know that you found this video helpful. You have two really good points in your comment. You're right that so many things we worry about, feel responsible for, etc. have nothing to do with us. I've noticed that, too, and it helps me separate myself and my realty from my thoughts about it all. I also appreciate your mentioning laughter. Developing a sense of humor -- including laughing at ourselves -- helps us gain a healthy perspective and become a bit more lighthearted. Talk about reducing anxiety!