Anxiety is a liar. I put it in blunt terms because what anxiety tells you seems so true. Or at least,
it leads to you think ‘what if it is true?’. If it is true, so the thinking then goes, it would be a
disaster. So better safe than sorry.
But just like the snake oil salesman from days of old, anxiety is lying to sell you something you
don’t want or need, and it could even make your current situation worse.
I’ve broken down the lies anxiety tells you into the different categories of lies so that you will be
able to tell the difference between a reasonable fear and a dirty lie of anxiety.
Lies of Exaggeration
Lies of Exaggeration make things seem worse than what they are or will be. This happens all
the time and we can easily spot it. We see it in commercials, on social media, on the news. We
encounter it in conversations we have.
The Lie: This is the feeling you get in your body or a flash of a thought in your mind that
something could go wrong. It’s a twinge, a pang, a tightening. Your thoughts may race a bit.
The loudest voice in your head is the one that is negative and senses bad things.
The Truth: What’s really going on is your imagination limiting itself to a negative story. Since
you can imagine things going bad, you can also equally imagine things will go good, or at least
You can often be talked out of these types of lies with some reassurance or support. You can
usually easily challenge some of these beliefs and replacing them with more reality-based
White lies are the types of lies your friends or family tell you so your feelings won’t get hurt.
They seem harmless on the surface because they are meant to be helpful and the person telling
them isn’t trying to get one over on you. It’s meant to be kind or helpful.
The Lie: The white lies of anxiety seem much the same way on the surface: helpful and well-
meaning. These are the lies that anxiety tells you to keep you safe because of something bad
that actually happened. These lies are the ones I associate with trauma, or if more severe, Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But it doesn’t have to be something severe.
For example, if you’ve ever been rear-ended while driving, and then you get nervous when you
get back in the car, or go to the same area that you were hit, then you experienced a white lie
It’s not an issue so long as it remains low level, and you are still able to drive, or do your normal
things. The thing is that if this is allowed to take root, it can start to put limits on you.
The Truth: Anything that stops you from doing normal day to day things in order to be safe is
not helpful. It holds us back from having a full and satisfying life.
For example, you may decide not to drive places you want to go, you may have trouble getting
to work, or taking your kids to school, even if you can do it. Or you may have to take different
routes to get to where you want to go.
You can help yourself with this by doing some relaxation and breathing exercises, and deep
breathing while doing what makes you anxious. It’s important to get back in and do these
activities or it will make the anxiety and avoidance worse.
These types of lies are just outright false and are meant to misinform and mislead. There’s
nothing helpful to you about it and it is only meant to manipulate you for some selfish end.
The Lie: Bold-Faced lies from anxiety come in the form of panic attacks. Panic attacks
overwhelm you with a feeling of dread, that you are dying, or something horrible is about to
You can feel like you are having a heart attack when you are not. You can have a lot of physical
sensations that you misinterpret as a severe medical issues, such as dizziness, pain,
numbness, and even difficulty moving.
The Truth: Panic attacks are uncomfortable, but you aren’t dying. Your nervous system is
overwhelmed and your are misinterpreting what’s going on. While in the middle of an attack, it
can be hard to believe that you are ok, but it will pass.
It is a sign, though, that it’s time to take steps to address the stress in your life. And even
though there’s no deadly medical cause to it, it’s worth seeing the doctor to get proof and also to
see if something else could be triggering it. For example, hypoglycemia can increase feelings of
anxiety, and over time, this could help contribute panic attacks.
Lies of Minimization
With lies of minimization, the situation is more serious than what you are being led to believe.
These lies are meant to make you believe that something isn’t as bad, serious, or as important
as it actually is, so that you don’t do anything about it, or worry about it. This is the opposite of
the first two types of lies that tell you that things are worse than what they are.
The Lie: When anxiety tells you lies of minimization, it tells you that things that cause you
anxiety aren’t that important. Or your anxiety will tell you that you can’t have or do that thing
anyway. Then when you avoid the object of anxiety, the anxiety goes away.
For example, you may want to take a yoga class, which you’ve never done before. You feel a
pang of anxiety about it, and then to stop feeling anxious, the anxiety lies to you about how
actually unimportant the class is you. “I can just go for walks, I don’t really to do it, I don’t have
time”. It could be any number of things. The anxiety minimizes how important and beneficial to
you the anxiety-provoking thing is, and then you believe it, and don’t do it.
The lie can have more serious consequences too. For example, you may notice a growth on
your arm and it’s changing month to month. Anxiety can lie to you that it’s not a problem and
give you reasons why. The actual situation is that you are anxious about going to the doctor
and what could be going on medically, but you avoid it to feel less anxious.
Lies of minimization can be major cause of dysfunction your life because it stops you from
taking steps to improve your life and make yourself happier and healthier.
This type of lies are more challenging to confront because it can be hard to get out of your
comfort zone and it might mean being uncomfortable for longer periods of time than you would
like. It takes a level of commitment and courage to continue to do things different.
The Truth: The longer you avoid healthy, self-fulfilling activities and things in your life, the more
starting to do them will make you anxious, and the more problems you are going to have to face
down the road.
But please don’t be discouraged about doing something about it, now that you understand
what’s going on; it’s never too late to make changes. I discuss this more in my video “Do the
Things that Scare you”, where you can learn some tips on how to face your fears.
Lies of Omission
In day to day practice, Lies of Omission are when not everything is told to you with the intention
of controlling your behavior. When your kid doesn’t mention he or she failed a test, they are
controlling your reaction of punishing them. When your partner doesn’t mention their drinking,
spending, or infidelity, they are controlling your reaction so that you don’t get upset with them.
The thing is, it works for a while, but then there’s little signs that something isn’t right.
Sometimes you don’t want to believe it, so you ignore these signs. None of this ever goes well
and will eventually come to an end, no matter how long or how calm things have been.
The Lie: When anxiety uses lies of omission, it’s tricky. You experience this anxiety by
experiencing nothing at all. This makes it one of the more difficult types of anxiety to overcome.
When someone is avoidant and closes off certain aspects of their life, thus omitting the thing
that causes anxiety, then we have limited our options.
Although not the only cause, people with deep dissatisfaction with their lives and can’t pinpoint
why, are often operating under these conditions. So, it’s not felt or experienced as anxiety, but
more like vague depression, self-deprivation, low motivation, or dissatisfaction with life.
The Truth: Important parts of your life are being hidden from you like a lost jewel that you’ve
forgotten that you even had. Through a process of personal exploration, trial and error, and
experimentation, you can move beyond these lies of omission.
It starts with recognizing that perhaps the cause of these negative emotions and life
dissatisfaction is because of avoidance, and not because you are fated to a dissatisfactory life.
It then means exploring things that might be of interest but have otherwise felt inaccessible. It’s
then trying these things out and seeing what happens. This is a process that can take a long
time, from years, to an entire lifetime.
That may sound daunting, but time will go by wether you do this or not. So why not see what
long lost gems in your life are hidden away in your pockets?
It may seem like anxiety has the upper hand when it comes to manipulating you and holding you
back, with all the lies it tells. The truth is, though, that you can learn how to spot the lies that
anxiety tells you, and make decisions based in reality, and in turn, improve your life.
If ever you feel stuck, think about what is the truth in a situation what what lies your anxiety may
be telling you. Then confront those lies with actions that will improve your life.
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Sometimes it’s helpful to have someone to talk to about anxiety, or other issues that might be
affecting the quality of your life. A trusted friend or colleague may be just the person to talk to,
and sometimes a little more support might be needed. If that’s the case, please consider
reaching out to a counselor. If you live in Florida, I provide counseling services and would be
glad to help you. If you live outside of Florida, or have someone else in mind to talk to, I
encourage you to contact a counselor so you can start feeling better as soon as possible.