All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 27 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Difficulty Thinking Anxiety Symptoms

Difficulty thinking anxiety symptoms description:

Common descriptions of the difficulty thinking anxiety symptoms include:

These difficulty thinking anxiety symptoms can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may have difficulty thinking once and a while and not that often, have it off and on, or have difficulty thinking all the time.

These difficulty thinking anxiety symptoms may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

These difficulty thinking anxiety symptoms can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

These difficulty thinking anxiety symptoms can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. They can also come in waves, where they are strong one moment and ease off the next.

These difficulty thinking anxiety symptoms can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

Why causes difficulty thinking anxiety symptoms?

There are many reasons why anxiety can cause difficulty thinking symptoms. Two of the most common include:

1. Behaving apprehensively and its stress response consequences
Behaving anxiously activates the stress response. The stress response immediately causes specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes in the body that enhance the body's ability to deal with a threat - to either fight with or flee from it - which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.

Part of the stress response changes include changing how the brain functions so that areas of the brain more critical for survival are enhanced and those less critical to survival are suppressed. For example, the amygdala (the fear center of the brain) becomes more active and the cortex (the rationalization areas of the brain) becomes suppressed. This change makes us more acutely aware of and reactive to danger but also reduces our ability to think clearly. A reduced ability to think clearly can seem like we are having difficulty thinking.

2. The consequences of an overly stressed body, including the stress caused by overly apprehensive behavior
When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically, however, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a semi hyperstimulated state, since stress hormones are stimulants. A body that becomes stress-response hyperstimulated can exhibit similar sensations and symptoms to that of an active stress response. Having difficulty thinking is a common indication of persistently elevated stress, such as that from behaving overly apprehensively.

There are many more reasons why anxiety can cause difficulty thinking. We describe the rest in Chapter 9 in the Recovery Support area of our website.

Nevertheless, since an active stress response and/or stress is the cause of difficulty thinking, this symptom needn’t be a cause for concern. It’s harmless in itself and is just an indication that the body is under stress or overly stressed.

How to get rid of the difficulty thinking anxiety symptoms?

When difficulty thinking is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this feeling should subside and you should return to your normal self. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When difficulty thinking is caused by persistent stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where this symptom is eliminated.

Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered, this feeling will completely subside. Therefore, again, this symptom needn’t be a cause for concern.

You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this feeling. Sure, difficulty thinking can be unsettling and even bothersome. But again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, this symptom completely disappears.

If you are having difficulty not worrying about the difficulty thinking anxiety symptoms, you may want to connect with one of our anxiety disorder therapists, coaches, or counselors. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to overcome what seems like unmanageable worry.

For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including this one, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - we call these core causes the underlying factors of anxiety - a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.


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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated January 10, 2017.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including difficulty thinking anxiety symptoms.