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  • Writer's pictureInterval Health

Common Thought Traps that Keep You Stuck in Anxiety

It’s not uncommon for everyone to have negative thoughts now and then. But, when you get “stuck” in those thoughts, and they tend to worsen and spiral out of control, it’s easy for anxiety to take hold. 

These are thought traps. For people with anxiety, they’re triggers that can cause distortions in how you see reality. Thought traps can cause you to worry about things that likely won’t happen. You’ll become more anxious about them and might find it difficult to break free from the fear. 

Not only are thought traps dangerous for people with anxiety, but they can leave you feeling helpless and hopeless and can severely diminish your overall quality of life.

Let’s take a look at some common thought traps that keep you stuck in anxiety and what you can do to find freedom from fear. 

Worst-Case Scenario Thoughts

One of the most common thought traps that can leave you feeling stuck in your fear is catastrophizing. You might think about a situation and immediately go to the worst possible scenario. Even if it’s extremely unlikely that the scenario will occur, you can’t seem to get your mind off of it. 

Unfortunately, when you get stuck on this kind of thinking, it can sometimes lead to self-sabotage. You might be so focused on catastrophizing the situation that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 


In life, there are a lot of gray areas. Rarely are things “all or nothing” in everyday situations. However, for someone with anxiety, the all-or-nothing mindset is another thought trap. Everything is either the worst possible scenario or the best, with no wiggle room in between. 

This way of thinking can leave you feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, and on edge. When you don’t leave any room for nuance in a situation, you’re less likely to enjoy it. You’re more likely to pick out the negative things about it or, again, self-sabotage to fit one of the extremes you’ve been stuck on. 

Falling Into a Negative Spiral

As the old saying goes, you are your own worst enemy. Many people who struggle with anxiety find it hard to escape because of the negative perceptions they have of themselves. How often do you think of yourself poorly? Do you call yourself names? Do you consider yourself some kind of failure? 

When negative self-talk starts to take over, it’s a difficult cycle to break. Your inner critic is eager to punish you and crush your self-esteem. Not only can that leave you stuck in anxiety, but it can also lead to depressive thoughts and reduce your motivation to get the help you deserve or even think of yourself positively. 

Additionally, when you’re stuck in a negative spiral, it’s easy to only focus on negative things while ignoring the positive. You might think anything good that happens doesn’t really count. You might be quick to pick those things apart and suggest that they aren’t as positive as they seem instead of appreciating them. Again, this kind of mindset will keep you deeply rooted in negativity and will undoubtedly increase your anxious and depressive thoughts. 

What Can You Do?

If there’s a silver lining to anxiety, it’s that it’s often a very manageable mental health condition. However, it’s not one that you should try to tackle on your own. It can be extremely difficult to break free from anxious thoughts by yourself, especially when you’re prone to getting stuck on them. 

If any of these issues sound familiar, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Therapy is often the best way to not only deal with your symptoms but to get to the root of your anxiety so you can start working toward freedom from fear. 


Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.


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