This is a question I get asked literally every day.  The answer may not be the one you want, but it’s the one you need.  In this episode we examine how we can learn to be sure (enough) that it really is just anxiety.


You can never be 100 percent sure that it’s just anxiety.  This is fact, because this is the way life works.  Very few things in this life are ever 100 percent certain, and this is one of them.  But … do not be alarmed.  This isn’t as bad as you think it is. 😉

The typical anxiety journey involves passing through stages:

  1. Total confusion and bewilderment (thank you, Dr. Weekes)
  2. Frantically seeking answers and explanations from doctors and other professionals.
  3. Hearing the same answer again and again – “it’s anxiety”.
  4. Asking your friends – or the Internet – to confirm or deny that it’s “just anxiety”. This stage often adds more confusion because … advice from the Internet.  Do I need to say any more?  😉
  5. Ultimately you are faced with a choice that presents itself every day, usually multiple times every day.  “Do I believe everyone that tells me that this is just anxiety?  This feels so dangerous to me, that I just can’t believe it.  So should I continue to act as if I am in danger?  Should I continue to try to find 100% certainty that this is just anxiety?”

It is important to see that we do “life math” all day long.  We look at situational variables and calculate our next course of action.  Often, our life math leads us to make mundane, boring, insignificant decisions. In same cases, we do life math to calculate our willingness do to dangerous things based on a risk/reward model.  You make choices like this all day long, every day.

Disordered anxiety will twist your life math equations by magnifying and distorting the value of the “danger” variables in your equations.

What a “normal” person will calculate as an insignificant threat that does not warrant seeking certainty about, you will calculate is a real and present danger worthy of quadruple checking every choice to seek absolute certainty of safety.  Fear is the great twisting and magnifying machine, and it is ruining your normally effective life math equations!

You move past this problem by quite literally trusting the experiences of others and taking a leap of faith into the danger you are so sure that you see and feel.  The leap involves removing YOUR danger variables from your life math equations, and plugging in Drew’s variables instead.  You are re-calculating your course of action based on what me, and the people around you, know to be the proper danger variables.

How can you be sure that it’s just anxiety?  You can’t, but when you make this change and begin acting as if you ARE sure (even when you are not), you will learn experientially that you always wind up OK, and that you can be sure ENOUGH.

Freedom and recovery do not lie in finding 100 percent iron-clad certainty that this is just anxiety.  Freedom and recovery lie in learning how to properly evaluate treat, risk, and danger so that you can be “sure enough” that you are OK.  This is how “normal” people live, and that is how you will live when you are recovered.


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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.