Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/21/2022
There are a number of mental illnesses out there that can make you believe things that aren’t necessarily true, including bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder.
But what about anxiety? Can it make you think things that aren’t true?
First things first — anxiety is a fairly common mental health disorder. In fact, it is estimated that around 40 million adults in the United States have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders can have a big impact on your daily life and on your mental health, and they can even impact your physical health. Learn a bit more about the various anxiety disorders, then find out if they can also lead to distorted thinking.
There are a number of different anxiety disorders. One of the more common types is called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It is diagnosed if you struggle to control your anxiety more often than not for six or more months. Other signs or symptoms of GAD are an increased heart rate, irritability, tiredness, nervousness and trouble sleeping.
But GAD isn’t the only anxiety disorder. There are actually four other types of anxiety disorders to be aware of, which are:
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): This is marked by compulsive thoughts and behaviors — like needing to repeatedly clean a countertop or lock a door over and over, or having other obsessive thoughts.
Panic disorder: Regular panic attacks are a common sign of panic disorder. Other signs include fear, heart palpitations and quickening breath.
Social anxiety disorder: You may know this as social phobia — it is when you get overwhelmed in social settings. It can be general or specific to things like public speaking.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Traumatic events — from serving in the military to surviving a natural disaster or assault — can spur this disorder on.
Honestly, it can. Anxiety can fill your mind with all kinds of thoughts and make you worry about things that won’t necessarily happen or things that aren’t true.
Here’s why: Anxiety plays a not-so-funny trick on your brain. It tells you that you need to worry about things even if you don’t. For example, someone with anxiety may worry that a bad person could take advantage of them — even if there’s no sign this could happen.
Some people call these intrusive thoughts and it’s estimated that about 6 million people deal with them. Given that we already mentioned that around 40 million people deal with an anxiety disorder at some point, this means that anxiety doesn’t always come with intrusive thoughts. But if you have anxiety, you may have intrusive thoughts — it’s thought that anxiety or stress can trigger these thoughts.
Anxiety can really put a damper on your daily life — especially if it’s making you think things that aren’t true. Luckily, there are ways to treat anxiety. Two of the most common treatments? Therapy and medication.
There are different types of therapy you can try if you have anxiety. One popular form is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). With this, you speak with a mental health provider and begin to identify behaviors that do not help or that aggravate your anxiety. From there, you work with your therapist to find ways to address those behaviors.
Some of the medications prescribed for anxiety disorders include antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (like escitalopram) and beta blockers. Both of these can help ease symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety disorders affect a large number of people in the United States. And while each type of anxiety disorder has different signs and symptoms, there are some things that can affect anyone with anxiety. You can learn more in our anxiety resource guide.
Intrusive thoughts or believing things that aren’t actually true can happen if you have anxiety. For example, you may be so fearful or worried about something happening, you start believing it absolutely will happen.
This is no way to live and if you are having these types of thoughts, you really should seek out professional help. If you are having intrusive thoughts or worry you have an anxiety disorder, you’ll want to speak with a medical professional. That person will be able to diagnose an anxiety disorder — if you have one. To help get your anxiety under control, schedule a consultation with a healthcare professional to receive medical advice.