Has Anxiety Become Your Identity?

When in the thick of the struggle, it can be easy to fall into the trap that makes anxiety a major part of your personal identity.  UK psychotherapist and anxiety specialist Josh Fletcher is back this week to talk about this common problem and ways to separate yourself from anxiety so that it doesn’t dominate your identity.

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The Highlights

  • Especially for people dealing with anxiety disorders, the relationship with anxiety can become all consuming and can sometimes take over and dominate one’s personal identity.
  • This can happen especially when one gets totally immersed in anxiety books, podcasts, social media feeds and online support group.
  • It’s almost expected and quite normal for people in the early stages of anxiety to immerse themselves in anxiety related content to the point where it can begin to dominate personal identity. This can happen quietly in a sneaky way. That’s OK. You’re not doing anything wrong if you discover that you’re adopting anxiety as a major identity component.
  • Over time, a natural progression might involve deciding that while content and information like this podcast or Josh’s books is helpful and useful, there’s also a life to live away from that content.
  • Part of recovery is engaging in life outside of anxiety content, where your choices are governed by your values rather than by your fear.
  • When Josh and I went through the recovery process we had to do things primarily alone because it was before the establishment of pervasive social media networks like we have today.  That helped to protect us from adopting anxiety as a personal identity while we were a disordered state and working on recovery.
  • We call it SOCIAL media for a reason.  It’s wonderful to belong to large groups of people that understand how you feel but we can sometimes normalize this experience to such a degree that it becomes to feel acceptable and it can be easy to accidentally adopt the identity of your online anxiety community.

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  • Often we define ourselves by what we do in our free time. Our interests and hobbies tend to reflect our identities. Being immersed in anxiety content as a way to spend your free time can be part of the identity trap. One thing to consider might be to re-explore lost hobbies and interests and to carve out time in your day to at least give other content or interests and chance to exist again.
  • An indicator of how large a part anxiety plays in your identity can be found in your reasoning for avoidance and life choices.  “I can’t do that because I have anxiety” or “I can’t do that because I’m an anxious person” are statements that provide clues.   Imagine if you are experiencing anxiety rather than being an anxious person?  What would happen them?
  • Sometimes it can be scare to leave anxiety behind.  Members of our community often ask “Who am I without anxiety?”, which is disturbing and challenging for any human being.
  • When you’re trying to move away from anxiety as your identity, often we just have to try different things just to start having new experiences and trying different things.  When you spend most of your time being anxious and trying to protect yourself, it can be hard to know what to do when you don’t feel the need to do that any more.
  • Moving away from anxiety as part of your anxiety is something that can often happen in the “nooks and crannies” of every day life and every day challenges.  Small choices like deciding to leave your bottle of water home when you go out tomorrow is a perfectly acceptable and useful step!  Re-building your identity outside of anxiety doesn’t have to come through huge leaps and grands acts of recovery.
  • We must acknowledge that everyone gets to choose for themselves who they want to be.  You may choose to be an anxious person, which would be totally OK.  That choice should be honored and respected if that works for you.


Find Joshua Fletcher online:

School of Anxiety

Josh’s Instagram

Josh on TikTok


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


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Founder and host of The Anxious Truth Podcast. Former anxiety disorder sufferer. Now fully recovered and dedicated to providing no-nonsense, straight-forward, actionable advice on how to overcome anxiety problems.