Can excessive anxiety cause problems concentrating on tasks?

Sometimes it happens that things that we were doing rushed now, we make them take twice as long and, on top of that, badly. It is not difficult to concentrate and why do we even have a memory problem?

We may be like that, but so overwhelmed that what is going on is taking its toll on us cognitively, as evidenced by work, study, and even play.

Anxiety and concentration problems are biologically linked and below we will explain why, besides giving some recommendations on what to do if we are suffering from these two problems. Don’t miss it!

    Anxiety and Concentration Problems: How Do They Work?

    This has happened to all of us after going through a time where it seems like we can’t concentrate at all. Our concentration, attention, memory, and decision-making fail, preventing us from leading a normal day. We forget things as important as the pending doctor’s appointment, the credit card number or that we had the stove making us a coffee maker.

    Anxiety is one of the possible causes of problems with concentration and other executive functions. We often underestimate the impact of this psychological state on our brain, making sure that despite the suffering, we do not act to deal with it correctly or on time. While it is true that problems with concentration and memory can have multiple origins, we should never underestimate the effect that psychological states such as depression, anxiety and stress have on our cognitive abilities.

    Anxiety is an emotion that, to its correct extent, it is adaptive. Being anxious means being in anticipation, ready to face a potential threat, and to flee if we can. This emotion amplifies our capacity for attention and has the advantage of serving us to protect our physical and psychological integrity. However, if it reaches high levels and becomes chronic, it becomes a nefarious companion, an emotion that attracts mental disorders and psychological problems.

      How do I know if I am suffering from a lack of concentration due to anxiety?

      It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s not uncommon for us to see that we have such anxiety that we don’t even realize it. Yes, it’s curious that a condition that makes us constantly worried, thinking it can go wrong, becomes so high that we don’t even realize we’re presenting it. It is essential to differentiate when we are suffering from concentration problems due to anxiety or other problems because the origin is different and therefore the way we approach it will be too.

      We can tell if we are having trouble concentrating due to anxiety by looking after the following symptoms.

      1. Mental fullness

      Feeling that we have emotionally ‘run out of gas’ do or thoughts in your head that prevent you from thinking clearly. It is an eternal mental fog.

        2. Little negligence

        Forget some everyday details, a sign that our memory is starting to fail.

        3. Difficulty enjoying tasks and hobbies

        Concentration problems the tasks and hobbies we love and loved before. For example, we lose track of the book we are reading or we don’t realize the plot of the movie we are watching and we have to go back to find out exactly what the movie is about.

        4. Sensation of unreality

        We start to have a feeling of unreality. In other words, it is we feel disconnected from everything that is going on around us, although it is an event that we enjoy. We feel like mere spectators of events in which we are supposed to be the protagonists or participate in them.

          What is the cause?

          In this particular case, by relating the problems of concentration to anxiety, we can say that here the cause is obviously anxiety. But what is the deeper cause is another question. It seems like the relationship between anxiety and problems concentrating is especially strong in patients with generalized anxiety disorder.

          This finding was actually made in a 2017 research titled “Difficulty Focusing in Generalized Anxiety Disorder: An Assessment of Incremental Utility and Relation to Worry.” Dr. Lauren Hallion’s group has come to several conclusions about how problems with concentration arise in patients with this anxiety disorder.

          When anxiety persists in an individual’s life and becomes chronic, at the cortical level those who take control are the structures in charge of the emotional aspects. Regions such as the amygdala reduce the activity of the prefrontal areas, which are linked to executive functions such as memory, thinking, problem solving, attention and concentration. Here is why there would be such an intense relationship between anxiety and problems concentrating.

          In the specific case of generalized anxiety disorder, there is a chronic concern. This causes the patient’s mental state to be one of high anxiety, an emotion that intensifies the activation of the so-called fear network, a neural circuit formed by the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala. This only leads to more problems with concentration, less attention and difficulty in thinking.

            How to deal with these problems?

            Subclinical anxiety and anxiety disorders in general affect all areas of our life.. Anxiety can cause us problems with attention, memory and concentration, problems related to the cognitive aspects of our mind.

            However, naturally, since it is a negative emotional state, it also brings us emotional issues which will be highlighted in areas of our life like work, family, study, social life and leisure time. . Having too much anxiety only distorts our lives and with it we lose control of reality.

            The most appropriate is to go to a professional specializing in anxiety disorders who will help us discover the deep source of our altered emotional state. This is a step which, although it is difficult for us to take it at first, has many advantages since psychological therapy can help us acquire a more effective lifestyle to cope with unforeseen coping strategies and healthy.

            But in addition to going into psychotherapy, we can introduce healthy habits into our lives that will help us avoid both anxiety and concentration issues.

            1. Dismantle your irrational ideas

            As simple and straightforward as grabbing a pen and paper where we will point out those irrational or dysfunctional thoughts that are blocking us, causing us a lot of discomfort.

            The idea is that by writing them down we will try to rationally write down the reasons why you think these thoughts are unlikely or, if they are, the feelings they cause you.

            2. Practice relaxation and deep breathing techniques

            A classic for dealing with anxiety is to practice relaxation and deep breathing techniques. Psychologists themselves introduce such techniques in their clinical sessions because, although they do not cure anxiety disorders, they help reduce their symptomatology and discomfort.

            3. Exercise and stay active

            The idea of ​​exercising to regulate your mood is a classic, and that’s because it works. Engaging in physical activity with some frequency acts as a protective factor against all kinds of psychological problems, including anxiety and lack of concentration.

            Sport is so beneficial because with it, well-known endorphins are released, chemicals that induce a state of relaxation and psychological well-being, in addition to reducing the perception of pain. They also reduce the feeling of anxiety.

            But it is also the practice of sport that directly influences our ability to concentrate. Indeed, it has been found that people who practice moderate-intensity sports between 3 and 5 days a week have better academic performance, linked to better concentration and retention capacity.

            So, even without having anxiety or concentration problems, playing sports is a good ally for our performance.


            In conclusion, it must be said that these practices, although they will help us, will not generate immediate change nor cause anxiety and problems with concentration fades as if by magic. Like everything in this life, it takes time to improve our mood and focus, as well as to insist on going to a mental health professional to teach us how to deal with very stressful events.

            Javier Ares Arranz

            Psychologist specializing in Depression, Anxiety and Couples.

            Verified professional

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            We must also accept that in life it is impossible to control everything. Life is full of uncertainties and more than once things will happen that will change us a bit, because as human beings it is impossible for us to have certain events that play with our feelings. In addition, it takes a long time to change the pattern of our thoughts, but calm, with time, persistence, and a little patience is better not to lose hope.

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