Why Anxiety Makes You Feel Stupid and Like a Failure
Does your anxiety ever make you feel like a failure? Does it ever make you feel stupid? A reader's comment on my post, Top 10 Anxiety-Friendly Jobs really got me thinking about this issue. They indicated that anxiety at work had caused them to exhibit some of the common signs of low self-esteem, including difficulty holding down a job, and becoming easily confused and forgetful. Because I've struggled mightily with these same issues at work, it also got me thinking about other reasons why anxiety makes you feel stupid and like a failure.
Why Anxiety Makes You Feel Stupid
Anxiety is a complex beast. I like to think of it as a collection of various fears and the physiological reactions to those fears. One of the anxiety disorder symptoms I've noticed in myself is that I become easily confused and distracted when I'm anxious. Which is to say, I'm confused and distracted most of the time, which can make you feel stupid. I have a hard time focusing and staying on track. I'm terrible at multitasking. I can really only handle one thing at a time, but life rarely happens that way.
Sometimes, anxiety makes me feel stupid because I feel I can't follow conversations. I can't stand conversation a lot of the time. My head is spinning and I just want to withdraw. I'm living with the cycle of anxious avoidance, trying to get out.
Why Anxiety Makes You Feel Like a Failure
Anxiety can make you feel like a failure for several reasons. First of all, people with anxiety tend to have poor self-esteem. We don't tend to think very highly of ourselves. We don't like ourselves much, and, subsequently, tend to believe other people don't like us either. We suffer from cognitive distortions and self-stigma. Our thinking is often out of whack with reality. Low self-esteem and distorted thinking can easily result in developing social anxiety disorder. This further erodes our self-esteem and increases our sense of failure.
Second, most people with chronic anxiety also have depression, and nothing makes you feel like more of a failure than depression. The crushing weight of constant sadness, the despair, and the hopelessness of depression not only makes you feel like a failure, it can make you question whether there's any meaning (or point) to life itself.
Third, many people with anxiety and depression have suffered a significant trauma in their lives, often in childhood. Things like the impact of divorce on children, alcoholism, mental illness in the family, and child abuse can result in a person developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I believe low self-esteem, depression, and PTSD are often the cause of anxiety itself. My feeling is that anxiety is ultimately a symptom of deeper, more insidious issues.
What to Do When Anxiety Makes You Feel Stupid and Like a Failure
I'm solutions-oriented, so I keep working on solutions for anxiety, even when it feels pointless -- like it does today. In spite of that, here's some things I do when anxiety makes me feel stupid and like a failure:
- I try to maintain perspective. Even though life feels pretty hopeless today, at least I know why it does. It's not because life really is hopeless, it's because I have a mental illness that distorts my thoughts, my feelings, and my physical reactions to daily life. I know through long experience that things are actually better than I think they are. I also know that this hopeless feeling will pass, like everything else.
- I try to stay productive. I have terrible problems with procrastination, so I know that, for me, part of building self-esteem is to be productive every day. Productivity is, of course, a relative thing. Some days, being productive means I make it out of bed, so my definition of productivity changes from day to day. There are three main types of anxiety-related procrastination, and I have all three of them. Part of not feeling stupid and like a failure because of anxiety means doing my best to stay as productive as I can.
- I try to be patient with myself. Look, I didn't wake up one day and decide that acquiring generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) sounded like a good idea. It's a disease, and the worst thing about it is it tells me I don't have a disease, but that I'm just lazy, stupid, and good for nothing. But that's a lie. One of the real tragedies of anxiety is that it falls directly in line with society's stigma about mental illness in general -- that people who suffer from it are weak, crazy, stupid, and worthless failures.
I hope this sheds a little clarity on why anxiety makes you feel stupid and like a failure. It's a nasty disease, and our culture has little patience or tolerance for it. But, even if others in your life are telling you you're a failure and you're stupid because you struggle with anxiety, I'm here to tell you differently. You are not stupid, and you are not a failure. And neither am I.
Weber, G. (2015, September 30). Why Anxiety Makes You Feel Stupid and Like a Failure, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, October 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2015/09/why-anxiety-makes-you-feel-stupid-and-like-a-failure
Author: Greg Weber
Thank you for sharing. I'm glad the post hit home for you and provided some comfort. When I'm feeling this way, it always helps me to remember that my feelings aren't facts. They're just my feelings.
I constantly feel stupid and like I'm a incurable failure. I never feel as though i can get better. The harder i try the more i hurt myself with feelings of loss. No matter what i do. I get scared and feel like i need to retreat back to feeling like a loser that nobody wants or care for. I always feel like im being hated on and multliple disorders are working on my emotional state at one time. I never get true relief and i feel desperate to find relief all the time. No matter what i do i always seem to fail. As soon as its over i get up and start the same process all over. Using and abusing putting myself down feeling guilty unwanted and useless. I exhaust myself and hurt my self. I am the root and source of all self inflicted abuse pain and suffering. I beat myself up every minute of the day and feel lonely and unwanted at night.
I have always constantly felt upset. It was very subtle when I was younger (8-10 yrs old) but now that I am 12, things have got a lot worse. I always feel upset especially at night or in the morning. What usually triggers this emotion is someone from my family shouting at me. It makes me feel like I'm useless and worthless. When meeting new people and trying to get to know them, I start to get nervous and I think "Oh they must think I'm annoying...". There's always this nagging of sadness that clings on to me. l don't know exactly what it is and I have asked my mother to take me to a doctor so I can see if it's serious or not but she doesn't take me serious. I always cry at night and I feel so alone. It's hard to explain the situation I'm in and to really understand it, you'd have to see it properly. All I can really explain is how I never feel appreciated. There's always someone who hates me. My sister wishes I was dead and wants to apparently (she said this recently) scrape my head against a cheese grater. She has also said that she likes seeing me cry and a number of other things. I know you may be thinking that my mother is sorting this out however she isn't. I told my mother that I am being neglected as this is what my counsellor had told me that she was doing but when I told my mother that, she responded in an angry tone and she was furious at me. I decided that it was best to not talk about my feelings anymore as there have been numbers of times that I have told my mother that I've been feeling quite down and she would have said "Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You always want attention." You may be thinking, "She's just a kid and these are just little family fights. This isn't serious at all." but I differ to say that I think it might be. If you know what I'm experiencing, please let me know.
Hey, Maria. I wish I had the answers that could help you out. I had the same (but worse) problem w my absentee, yet abusive pop's. Yeah, a real cluster! Although he abused me verbally and made me feel like EVERYONE thought I was a freek-loser, I had to understand that sometimes parents pass on their confusion of parenting because that's what they saw from their parents. However, I've learned that every person has security issues, everyone! Some folks can just [moderate] better than others. It's an act! I've met a lot of famous people in my 41 years and they ALL get nervous before a show. They call it wearing different hats. You just have to remember to take care of number one and your well being. PLEASE, do not make the mistake of trying to selfmedicate yourself w drugs (alcohol is a drug) Get the assistive counciling that you deserve. Talk to someone from school, I promise you that they want to help, they live for that. Purging what's bothering you can free your anxiety feelings. Talk to anyone, we all feel anxious and overwhelmed, plus you might be helping them out w their problems of feeling useless, when they can be there for you. Last but most importantly, your sister does not hate you. Growing up is hard for us all & it's our first time, so when things get tough, we tend to lash out at the ones that we love most because we feel that they will be the ones to forgive us the fastest. I guarantee you she's gonna be your best friend that'll always be there for you. Stay the strong person that you are, never give up, stay positive & know that life is beautiful and you are too! Only love beats the evil. God bless you and I wish you all the best ?
I have spent the last 4 yours looking for the reasons why I felt this way about myself. I broke down crying as soon as I started reading this and felt this was a 100%. I still feel like I a useless human being but I am actually trembling in happiness. While I could have easily went for a shrink to find out sooner, i couldnt as my family never believe in shrinks and depression. I want that thankyou for writing this and allowing to really figure out what is wrong with me. This was not an immediate solution but this article makes me see and understand my self-esteem and issues for the very first time. THANKYOU SO MUCH YOU BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. This is one of the reasons besides my amazing best friend of why I am not giving up on myself and my life in general.
I know I have GAD, but I have been feeling so badly about myself lately, I did a google search about feeling like a failure. I, too, began crying some reading this, because it was just so spot on to the way I feel. I didn't want my husband to see me cry, lol, but it was only a few tears.
I don't think people understand anxiety disorders, because "everyone" feels anxious sometimes, so they don't get what it is like to live every day, wondering if you did something wrong, if someone is mad at you, etc.
I, too, have had a very hard time focusing for a long time and being forgetful, but I never really attributed it to anxiety. I take medication for epilepsy that I only developed 8 years ago. If not for the meds, I fear I would have many more seizures and stress is a trigger.
I am glad to know that there are people out there who experience the exact kind of feelings. Well, not glad you feel them, but glad someone can empathize, lol.
Gosh. Your story seems so spot on.. I wish I could stop crying too, I have every reason to be happy but I can't stop drowning get in tears over my past. I know my drinking doesn't help but I've been drinking since I was very young so I'm highly dependent and I definitely need help with that issue at best. I also had my first seizure going on 9 years ago. Sorry so much for what you have to go too, I can only imagine because I feel like I am in pain everyday. Even when I'm happy I want to fall on the floor and cry just like right now. Anytime you'd like to speak I am here, I have friends but I don't tell anyone of them because it's just so hard because most people I know personally don't have the same problems so it just ends up sounding like a sob story. I have been thinking about using a Forum like this before but never actually went through with it. Hope all is well Katie. Thanks for sharing your story.
This is, by far, one of the most helpful, relative articles I have read on anxiety. It feels as though I have a twin sister who is writing this! This has helped me immensely, because in the past, I have felt stupid, slow, and useless. All I really wanted to say was thank you, this was very useful!
Thank you for telling us that you have personal experience with these thoughts and feelings. It makes such a difference to me to see words reminding me that others have this too, and that all advice isn't coming from a person with a perfect life with a PhD that's never actually experienced anything like this in their life. I'm all for knowledge, but on days like today, I end up feeling like I need to scream, "I know something about what I'm feeling! I'm actually experiencing this!"
Ahhh, yes! You’re so right about this. Reading this article just felt so relatable.
I think I have mental illness but I don't know if I could tell my mom and dad because I don't know if they would help me I feel stupid and I also feel like I'm a faliure because my grades in school is terrible and I also feel that way because I don't feel mature enough to have any friends at all because my mom always says that nobody wants to be around that whenever I act immature I think I have depression to because sometimes I have just feel like I want to die I literally tried to commit suicide twice I just don't know what to do anymore I want help but I just don't know how to get it I just don't know why I'm so afriad for my parents to know I don't want to live like this anymore I feel all completely extremely lonely although I am very popular in my school it's just that most of my friends I only see in school and the only two people that come over to my house is a boy that's one year younger then me and a girl that is my 5 year younger cousin so that is one reason why I feel so lonely and most of the kids that are in my school always hang out at there houses with each other when all I do is stay in the stupid boring house with my stupid boring parents while all the other kids are having fun just like in the summer vacation which I much rather be in school where I could actually have some fun and see my friends instead of my stupid boring old parents sometimes I just feel like cutting myself up until I die but I'm to scared of the pain but trust me if there was a way that I could just die painlessly trust me I would have already have done it I would have been dead and not having to put up with this crap but I doubt that any of you's that are reading this and even if there are people reading this that you will even trust me because I just feel that and like nobody understands me and that they will never understand me I feel like we need to have a Brian switch which is not even possible for somebody to understand me but my parents are no help eathier at all my mom only says that I need to stop talking that way because it's not right or normal and in my head I'm like obviously that's not normal why do you think I'm saying it to you but I have to say that inside my head because mostly everything I say to her is disrespectful and all !Y dad says is that people that commit suicide are weak and there foules and even people that have those thoughts in them are weak and there foules and my grandma just doesn't give it about anything so please if you're reading this which I doubt anybody is please just help me and or text me back some advice so you could help me just please anything I'm begging you people to
First off, you are not the worst person in the world. You sound like a very normal and human person to me who is hurting. Many of us have been where you are. I have attempted suicide myself and I know what that's like.
I can understand how hard it must be if your parents aren't helping you. I'm sorry. I would say you should go to a school counselor, but I know you are on a break right now. Make sure you do this once school gets back in. Until then, you may wish to investigate community resources and charities that work with people with mental health issues. Maybe join a group for people with depression. If you can, see your doctor and talk to him or her and ask for suggestions.
You can also call a helpline at any time. You don't have to be suicidal to call. See some numbers here: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
You can do this.
- Natasha Tracy
I’m so sorry that you’re feeling this way. I have been struggling with depression too, and that’s why I was in this website. Have you tried going to a therapist? I thought that going to a therapist would be awkward and wouldn’t help me, but it actually helped so much! It sounds like your parents don’t understand what it’s like to be depressed, and I think having someone you could talk to about how your feeling who won’t judge you and who you can be yourself with would really help! You can get through this and feel better, even though it might not seem like it right now! If you can’t go to a therapist for some reason, you could tell your doctor if you go to one or guidence counselor at your school about how your feeling and that you might have depression, and they could help you too. there are also therapists that you can Skype with online. Or you could copy and paste your comment on an online forum like quora. I hope this helps at least a little bit! And I hope you feel better soon!
Do you have Borderline personality disorder?... Its common to cut when depressed to forget the pain and misery of life..please look at the Borderline videos on You TUBE. I used to tear my flesh when i was young and people told my mother but she did nothing..she said it was a phase...but its a mental illness from feeling too much...its easy to learn to stop ...please get help..I was where you are. I am 56 now and happy.
I've had depression for so long and that I'm not even a human being any more. Two decades man, two decades. I had to watch my entire life pass by -- I fought like a warrior though -- and I'm gonna go out swinging hard. Peace.
It's rooted in PTSD and kept in place through statism and collectivism.
Wow, this is exactly what is happening in my life, i am living a hell life i just don't know weather to cry or laugh anymore cause other things that am experiencing in life they are quite sad and again i have felt or experienced that goodness of being free from anxiety for a certain period (being positive) but it doesn't last longer. I just don't know what is that and again it's uneasy journey for me.
I hear you..i feel the same way...Lost jobs and family from being too "over anxious" and trying to over explain everything. I have been told i have Borderline PD...and i have Schizophrenia too. I am just existing ...every job is a nightmare. I over work and take on jobs i cant do...then crash and start over again. Trying to prove i am normal and smart makes me insane and insecure. I get bored in one hour and then i am eating too much to forget the fact that i am bored and tired of living. Please do CBT..it has helped me to get a job and keep it,, for a while now...i can stay focused on the job and not my anxiety and fear of people hating me.
thank you for this. <3
I'm about to complete some freshman exams and know from previous tests that I am exceptionally smart however this time around, I will not permit myself to do well. Negative thoughts have overridden me and I can't see past a good horizon which essentially, is limiting my potential for success. I need help QUICK! I have experienced months of depression and debilitating anxiety since my toddler years.
thank you very much
My anxiety is so bad that I can't drive and I have Agoraphobia. I have been denied disability because I am smart, they say I just need a job that's not stressful (good luck finding that) like working in a warehouse. How am I suppose to work if I can't leave the house, or even get there if I can't drive?
I'm on all kinds of medicines for depression and anxiety but it's not enough to keep me from having them, it's just not quite as bad as it was; It's still bad enough that I haven't even been to a store in over six months. Going to Walmart, for some reason, is worse than going to any other store. I stay at home, in bed for the most part. I just don't know what else to do anymore. I feel stuck, but there are so many things I want to get out and experience.
I'm 67 now and still have anxiety when I don't pay enough attention to stress and taking care of myself, but I had agoraphobia for a few years in my 30s and was unable to leave my house even to walk down my driveway to my mailbox! I had a great psychiatrist (changed therapists until I found one who really knew what he was doing--many are "on the anxiety bandwagon" but have no real clue what it is). He knew exactly which antidepressant would work for me, and it did. It's not used anymore, though. Today there are so many that you need a therapist who is willing to find the one that works for you. Many of what I call the "fad meds" simply do not work for everyone or for every problem. When I had a med that worked, I read every Claire Weekes book I could find, and I also learned progressive muscle relaxation and other meditative practices. I do them every day. But Claire Weekes is the only author (out of dozens) who knows agoraphobia as though she knows you personally.
Oh God I thought I was truly crazy but everything I read was the truth and yes I can't finish anything without effort and procrastination is my best friend or feeling like I am working on three things at the same time simply awful....the best thing I am to get comfort from is my relationship with God....everything else is a days work okay....thank God for the truth
Great article. Apart from the horrible anxious feeling, the next awful thing is feeling stupid. In my struggle with anxiety, I think just accepting that I am not well has been a huge step. This only happened on Sunday, two days ago, but it feels good.
At work I feel so stupid. This is job #3 for me. Sometimes I get scared to speak because I make so much mistakes. I can feel the coworkers irritation with me. I just stay quiet so hopefully they can forget my screw ups. It feels like everyone knows what they're doing and I'm just fumbling all the time. This makes me questions whether or not I'm an idiot.
This is exactly how I feel at work. How do you feel now? Did you take any steps to overcome this? If yes, request you to please share with me.
I am so glad to read your article! The truth is I feel exactly the same as what you have described. I thought I am getting dumber as I am getting older. Knowing that it's not the case is relieving. Thanks!
My chronic anxiety began way back from the earliest stages of my life. From taking tests, class presentations, completing tasks under pressure. Its the pressure of completing a task that hinders my ability to succeed and most likely surpass others. Its like a huge wall that will not break down. And as a result, i feel as if i have multiple personalities. One in which i am fully capable and confident in doing things or having conversation, but unfortunately this side is hidden 90 percent of the time. The second personality comes out as a result of my anxiety, second-guessing myself, freezing in environments that exert pressure on me; ultimately i falter, and sub-consciencely play dumb. So growing up, my all of my peers, teachers, etc. saw me as a complete airhead. i am highly insecure of ejecting my skills, but i also am afraid of how much success my future would hold, if i weren't so anxiety riiden. If i were to grab life by the balls, what would happen. Ive been taking baby steps by working a a waitress at a popular golf/driving/range/night club. I took the job because i knew it would be scary as fuck but the only way i would be able to get over my fear of talking to people and making new friends. Im still awkward and shy at times, but now im starting to really get the hang of things. it trains me to be able to work under immense pressure, and multitask which i suck at lol. but its getting better.
I just saw this comment and was like that’s me, and took a screenshot of it to describe to my therapist (seeing a therapist for the first time on Wednesday! Had a major breakdown today) and then noticed the time on it. So crazy because I thought someone might have written this a long time ago but I feel the same way as you, i feel like I have this super smart, adventurous and brave personality that shines on like 10% of the time (probably the only reason I have friends) and then the other timid side of me has taken over my life over time thru multiple failures and I just feel like every failure sucks the life of me more and more as my anxiety gets worse until it’s a self-sustaining spiral of downward depression. Every failure sucks the joy and vibrancy out of my life a little more and I’m just so sick of tethering on the edge, panicking of falling over at anytime and letting the beautiful years of my life just fly past me as I try to keep the curious, smart and innovative spark in me alive. I’m hoping my therapist can help me gain perspective because after so many failures you start to believe that perhaps you never were smart or adventurous or curious to begin me and that it had all been an illusion.
Omg. That last line. That's how I feel. Like every good feeling I ever had was a lie. Like I've been blind to my own stupidity and now that I can see it I'm realizing that everyone else already knows. Everyone I come across has more than me and feels better than me, almost like there's some knowledge about life that everyone has, but I just never learned. Even the people who have less than I do seem to feel better than me. I have no answers, no reason to hope there will be answers in the future, and no hope for myself. I've failed a lot in life and I kept going, but a year and a half ago my ex-wife left me. We have two kids together and she took them. I did everything I could to fix that and nothing happened. I stay confused between whether I did too much and kept her away or if I did too little and gave her no reason to come back. Either way it doesn't matter. I still get to see my kids. Although she is actively trying to stop that, while still asking for child support as if it was my idea to be away from my kids, who happen to be the only reason I see that I have left to live. She has moved on since then with a guy she was hanging out with before she left me who is a drug dealer. She left me and took my kids for a drug dealer. I have moved on also. Trying to patch my life up with better things. But it's not life. I'm in a good environment with a girl that actually supports me and I'm trying to do right by her. But I don't feel things the way that I used to. I don't feel love the same. It's more of a dead spot in my chest feeling ALL THE TIME. I don't feel happiness ever. I don't have much patience or energy. I'm just empty. And honestly I feel like I'm done. I've been defeated. Mostly because I was never capable of victory and thinking I was has come back to bite me hard. I'm not saying I'm suicidal, but I'd be happy not to have to be here anymore. I'm just ready to stop... Everything. It's not just the feelings. Everyone I've given a chance to screw me over has done it, save for 3 of my 7 siblings. I don't even have an appetite anymore. Food, sex, nothing. Fuck it. Fuck everybody. And everything.
I feel i could have written that comment..I am so sick of myself..I have been told i have Borderline personality Disorder and that causes me to feel shame all the time,, and i feel worthless all the time..I am not afraid to talk to people but after i do i am convinced that they thought i am an idiot..and i am a liar. I am terrified of being thought of as a liar...its so horrible. I have a good life with a good man but feel he could leave anytime and would be happier without me.
My body has gone to hell from an eating disorder i hide too. I eat junk and then feel such guilt i could die. then i feel terrible i cant stop doing this!!!
Grateful for your posting encouragement and insight.
I feel the same way if I been interacting with lots of people. I feel so tired, depressed, feel so stupid and worried whether other will perceive me as a total failure. I also have same problem with forgetfulness and unable to focus/multi tasking.
It is good to find that I am not alone. One thing I tried hard, is to do the opposite than what I am afraid of. For example, I tried to be the presenter for my team at work when opportunity arise. Also I try to always smile even though I feel depressed. I know it sounds crazy, but people will smile back and with that I feel better.
Like you said, however despite what you do, some people will always try to put you down. I try to think if they don't like you.... is not because you have problem, but it is their own problem. You are not obligated to make other people happy. But you should try to make your environment a happier place.
John you are amazing! What a great feed back. I am a lot like you . I stumbled on post wondering what’s wrong with me and why I always dissatisfied with my self. Your feed back feels like home and gives me strength. I love that you fight for your right to live and matter in our world. I love that you don’t let your fears hold you back! Thank you , weighting this feed back today I will be a more confident me because of you.
I also live in a cage within my own mind.
Some day we will escape
You all are beautiful people, never forget that!!
This may, or may not, apply to you. Each person is different. For me I am discovering that, like you, I am very smart, I have a very smart brain. But "demon anxiety" had robbed me of that self confidence to recognize it.
This is an important time in my life. I am discovering things about myself I wish I had learned at 30.
Better now than, in contrast to my dad, never.
I have been dealing with anxiety and bi polar depression for years, Can't keep a job ect. but the worst is my anxiety, I freak out with a lot of people around. But after reading this, it's totally me.... I see a therapist and it helps. But my depression is not nearly as bad as my anxiety, HELP how do you deal with that? And thinking normal ?
Go back and tell your pdoc how you feel. I've had terrible anger and it's better now, just after a few weeks. If your pdoc can't help.....go find another doc. This is your life.
I feel the same way everyday. I've tried the meds the doctor suggested but I feel nothing while I'm on them. Better to feel anger than nothing right.ive just given up on social events all together. To much stress.
I always blame God when I feel depressed,he only protects the strong and lets the weak suffer not only with humans but other animals as well,the smart bird will find it’s way out of a tricky situation but God will let the weak bird die,I hate God very much,why I aint religious anymore,he even turned his own against each other,catholics and protestants,he is as evil as satan.
He lets the strong mock the weak,control the weak and bully the weak.
God is an evil person.
He lets old pedophiles live their lives while the struggling children carry torture with them forever and it’s his very own priests that were responsible.
Naa,hate you God.
Why he makes people feel sorry for others who have strong minds but have a limb missing but people with depression who are dying in the inside are left alone with no support.