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The Cognitive Effects of Anxiety

By Kay Ireland ; Updated August 14, 2017

Anxiety, an emotion that can be associated with fear and stress, can be a debilitating condition if not properly treated and if not taken seriously. When it comes to your cognitive behavior and thinking, anxiety can slowly deteriorate your thought processes and ability to make cognitive, rational decisions. Anxiety can cloud your thoughts and your mind, making you feel inadequate and fearful of what may happen. If you suffer from anxiety, you may also experience the cognitive effects of anxiety.

Fear

Rational or irrational, fear is a natural cognitive side effect of anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety, you may fear a wide variety of outside circumstances; fear that you aren't good enough, fear of something happening to your family, fear that you'll be abandoned. Fear is a natural emotion and is useful in fight-or-flight circumstances, Merck points out. But if you have anxiety-driven fear it disrupts your normal life and makes it hard for you to function.

Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts can be helpful at times, to allow you to sense danger and understand how to protect yourself. But negative thoughts that keep you down, make you feel self-destructive or depressed can cause you to feel even more anxiety, perpetuating a cycle of low self-esteem and self-worth. HelpGuide.org notes that an effective treatment for anxiety is to identify the root of negative thoughts and banish them with positive thoughts and realistic affirmations.

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Feelings of Inadequacy

Constant feelings of inadequacy plague your mind if you are a frequent anxiety sufferer. You may think you're not good enough at your job, a bad friend or parent. These feelings of inadequacy are then closely tied to your negative feelings and fear, making your anxiety a triple threat. When dealing with anxiety, you fear being judged by others and not measuring up, says the Social Anxiety Institute. This affirms your fears, makes you feel embarrassment and plunges you deeper into depression.

Memory

Your memory can be affected when dealing with anxiety, found a study performed by the School of Psychology at University of London and published in a 2008 issue of Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience. Subjects who had high instances of anxiety, when asked to repeat a certain pattern shown only moments before, could not always execute it correctly, while low-anxiety individuals had no problem in repeating the patterns. Anxiety can affect your performance at work and remembering small details.

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