Anxiety and Recovery Questions and Answers

This week we’re doing a good old-fashioned anxiety and recovery question and answer session with questions sent in from members of my Facebook community. I couldn’t answer all the questions, but I did my best to combine questions and touch on the common and most often repeated themes.

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02:24 How do I face a scary exposure?

I hate that there are no steps for this. I think a good place to start would be acknowledging that you are scared to do what you need or want to do, then recognize that facing a scary exposure is about being brave, which means acting even when afraid. Also, there are times when motivation to change by choosing to do scary things or choosing to be brave just hasn’t reached a level where that leap can be taken. Sometimes we have to reach the point where the pain that comes from NOT facing that fear is greater than the pain of facing it. And everyone gets there in their own way and in their own time.

05:58 Is it normal to still have symptoms or scary thoughts in recovery?

This was asked quite a bit in various forms. It’s OK to ask for assurance sometimes and to look to the experiences of others for encouragement before going forward.  Yes, it is normal. In fact, it’s not just normal to have symptoms or thoughts during recovery, but even after recovery. This is confusing because some people think that recovery is making them go away, then when I say that recovery isn’t about this they freak out and assume that I’m saying to just live with them forever.  But really, recovery is about learning that you COULD live with them forever if you had do.  Then … as a happy secondary outcome … they tend to lesson or even go away for long stretches of time.  But anxiety symptoms and anxious thoughts are things that all humans experience – even recovered humans – so be careful about judging the progress of you recovery based on feeling or thinking things.  Look at how you handle those thoughts and feelings.  That’s where recovery is.

08:48 What do I do when I’m not anxious and have no symptoms or thoughts to deal with?

Well … first .. enjoy it.  Then, engage in your life as best you can. A common theme in our community is “but it won’t last” or “I know my scary thoughts are going to come back later or tomorrow so none of this counts”.  Again, what primary target are you aiming at?  Recovery is largely about learning that virtually all states are permissible and handleable even when not desirable.  Not anxious now?  Then live as best you can while not anxious but worried that you will be again. Then if you are anxious later, do the best you can with that. Work on abandoning the need to find meaning in every state or to manage it all the time.

10:40 Which comes first, scary sensations or scary thoughts?

BOTH! This might be debated if we connect a bunch of people to electrodes and stick them in functional MRI scanners. Some people will insist that they are triggered by sensations while others will say they are only triggered by thoughts. In both cases that feels “special”.  Both scenarios are accurate and valid and might even shift from day to day for any given person.  That being said … does it matter?  The approach to facing a scary thought is the same as approaching a scary sensation, or a scary thought about a scary sensation, or a scary sensation triggered by a scary thought!   “I’m afraid.”  Start from that point and work on relating to that fear however it presents. The sequence of the triggers is largely irrelevant from a general broad brush point of view.

12:37 How can I be sure if it’s just anxiety or my intuition?

You can’t. When immersed in a struggle with disordered anxiety – anxiety triggered by your own thoughts and physical sensations – “gut feeling” is a thing that in my opinion needs to be set aside for a while.  Same for intuition.   When your body and mind are repeating a cycle of false danger alarms followed by dragging you around against your will to treat those alarms as real, both gut feeling and intuition are offline and no longer really useful.  If I line up 1000 anxious people that listen to this podcast and ask how many are constantly fooled by anxious threat responses that sure seemed like valid “gut feelings” but turned out to be anything but, I bet I would see 900 hands go up.  Put aside gut feelings and intuition for a while, at least while you’re working on your recovery.  And yes, this will feel reckless and dangerous to do.

15:01 The selfish nature of anxiety and anxiety disorders

Yes. An anxiety disorder is VERY self centered. It will take ALL the attention and it simply does not care what that costs. An over-enthusiastic threat detection and response system isn’t interested in your romantic happiness or the health of your family. It only wants what it wants. It’s important to see that YOU are not self centered or mean.  The disorder can be.  Check out episode 101 of this podcast on my website, or on YouTube or in your podcast app.  It speaks directly to this issue. It might also be helpful to have friends/family members listen with you.

Links Of Interest


Disclaimer: The Anxious Truth is not therapy or a replacement for therapy. Listening to The Anxious Truth does not create a therapeutic relationship between you and the host or guests of the podcast. Information here is provided for psychoeducational purposes. As always, when you have questions about your own well-being, please consult your mental health and/or medical care providers. If you are having a mental health crisis, always reach out immediately for in-person help.

Are You Subscribed To My Newsletter?

Recovery tips. Updates on recovery resources. Encouragement. Inspiration. Empowerment. All delivered to your inbox! Subscribe here FREE.

Helpful Recovery Resources:

My Books | FREE Resources | Courses and Workshops | Disordered (with Josh Fletcher) | Join My Instagram Subscriber Group

Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)





Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Therapist-in-training specializing in anxiety and anxiety disorders. Author. Podcaster. Educator. Advocate. Former anxious person.