Anxiety Induced Procrastination

Five commonly misunderstood types of procrastination


Anxiety and procrastination go hand in hand. Often when we feel anxious about something, we put it off. This can be obvious to some, especially those experiencing it. For example, you might put off taking that driving test because you are scared of failing or getting hurt whilst driving. However, the link between anxiety and procrastination is not always clear to sufferers and those around them.

Below are five types of anxiety-related procrastination often misunderstood and or overlooked. While reading each, think about any tasks you are putting off and see if they fit into one of those categories.

At the end, we will explain the importance of acknowledging them and how it can help you with your anxiety.

  1. Blaming someone else for your inaction

Typically anxiety manifests in two ways; anger and hopelessness. If there is something you are putting off due to anxiety, you may find yourself blaming others for your inactions instead of acknowledging the anxiety.

To an extent, there might be others contributing to your problem, but honing in on this can obscure your responsibility providing you with the ultimate excuse of not being proactive. You still need to partake in active behaviours even if they feel stressful and anxiety-inducing.

  1. Anxiety surrounding a task you have successful experience performing

People can get anxious completing tasks they have done successfully many times before. This mainly happens when they have not done those tasks for some time; the stakes are higher, there is an audience, or the evaluation process has changed.

If this happens to you, notice when you become anxious and ask yourself what makes it feel different this time? To aid identification, think about the basic skills involved such as filling in a form, your surroundings, preparation, the journey, studying for a test/exam, the people, and domain.

To support yourself and overcome the feelings of anxiety, you can reel off the objective evidence of your skills and past successes. Often proving to yourself that you have achieved this many times before will outweigh the negativity.

  1. The anxiety of a small aspect blocks you’re entire progress

You may not feel edgy, nervous or anxious about all aspects of a task; it could be one element or little point. For example, you want to make a phone call. Talking itself isn’t particularly nerve-wracking but dialling that number and waiting for the person to answer is.

It is scenarios like these where people label themselves as being anxious about specific tasks when, in fact, it is only 10% of the process they find anxious. Being able to see things clearly, it can help create balanced thinking enabling empowerment.

  1. Feelings of strong resentment about having to do the task at all

Anxiety can get camouflaged when other strong emotions are more dominant. Anger and blame, as mentioned earlier, are common. Another is resentment about having to do something because you need to that isn’t about a specific person.

For instance, you may feel resentment about doing part of a task because to you, it feels like a complete waste of your time, or you have to comply with a system that doesn’t feel fair, logical or caring. When an anxious person feels like a system doesn’t work for them, it can trigger senses of not fitting in. Another anxious person may feel they need to comply entirely with all the rules and procedures of the system, which can trigger anxiety about achievement and perfectionism.

  1. Your anxiety is manifesting as perfectionism

Anxious people sometimes respond to anxiety with perfectionism. When there is something they want to get precisely right, they might design it so detailed that it is way over the top. This turns a perfectly manageable task into one that feels completely overwhelming, thus triggering procrastination. However, the anxious person does not see their approach as overly complicated. They do not realise that the basic task given to them is not nearly as complicated as they have turned it into.

Why acknowledging anxiety can help


body positive

If you have diagnosed anxiety, you probably have some coping strategies to help you move past the moment. If you do not have any strategies, then we can support you in creating a custom plan. There are also books and online resources which offer support and guidance.

Anxiety management strategies, for instance, may take the form of breaking down a task into smaller pieces to make it more manageable. You may still feel anxious, but by doing smaller parts of the job allows you to manage your levels more effectively. Many find exercising or listening to music beneficial when completing tasks they find particularly challenging.

If you find yourself blaming others for your procrastination, acknowledging the role of your anxiety can help you take self-responsibility. Talking about your anxiety can help you have productive conversations about issues that need resolving, such as when you are making joint decisions with those closest to you. Expressing vulnerability can trigger others to respond in more caring ways so long as you do not overuse the strategy.

Acknowledgement is empowering and can enable you to become self-compassionate. Instead of beating yourself up for procrastinating, treat yourself kindly over what works well for you. There are times when asking for support to get you through anxiety-provoking tasks is appropriate, especially in areas you tend to shy away from.

The Devon Clinic offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, often known as CBT, Counselling, Coaching and hypnotherapy to support those with anxiety. For further information please complete the form below or contact us directly on 01803 500300 | email:


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