Taking too much personal responsibility and blaming oneself are both strongly linked to anxiety disorders, new research finds.
People who take too much responsibility are more likely to develop Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and/or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Anxious people often strongly agree with statements like:
- I must always think through the consequences of even the smallest actions.
- I am too sensitive to feeling responsible for things going wrong.
Understanding that anxiety can spring from taking too much responsibility can help people deal with their emotions.
Although anxious people often feel they have no choice but to worry; in fact, it is taking too much responsibility that is contributing to it.
Repetitive negative thoughts are one of the signs of anxiety disorders, said Dr Yoshinori Sugiura, the study’s first author:
“People with OCD [are] tortured by repeatedly occurring negative thinking and they take some strategy to prevent it… GAD is a very pervasive type of anxiety.[Patients] worry about everything.”
It is normal to do some checking and worrying, but when these get out of control, it can become a problem, said Dr Sugiura:
“For example, you’re using two audio recorders instead of one.
It’s just in case one fails … having two recorders will enhance your work but if you prepare [too] many recorders … that will interfere with your work.”
Dr Sugiura provides some tips:
“[A] very quick or easy way is to realize that responsibility is working behind your worry.
I ask [patients] “Why are you worried so much?” so they will answer “I can’t help but worry” but they will not spontaneously think “Because I feel responsibility” … just realizing it will make some space between responsibility thinking and your behavior.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the International Journal of Cognitive Therapy (Sugiura & Fisak, 2019).