Anxiety and Procrastination

Some people with anxiety have problems with procrastination

Anxiety. Spencer Platt / Staff / Getty Images

Sometimes people with anxiety issues, or even generalized anxiety disorder, have problems with procrastination.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GAD symptoms can include:

  • Persistent worrying or obsession about small or large concerns that's out of proportion to the impact of the event
  • Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
  • Inability to relax, restlessness, and feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind "goes blank"
  • Worrying about excessively worrying
  • Distress about making decisions for fear of making the wrong decision
  • Carrying every option in a situation all the way out to its possible negative conclusion
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty or indecisiveness

Physical signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Trembling, feeling twitchy
  • Being easily startled
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Headaches

When it comes to procrastination and anxiety, there are three major sources: perfectionism, worrying about results and low self-efficacy. 


Many times, people with anxiety also struggle with some degree of perfectionism. Worrying that something needs to be perfect to be valuable and worthwhile can leave someone paralyzed with inaction. The most important strategy for battling perfectionism and anxiety is rationally assessing the situation.

Take a realistic look at whether something needs to be perfect or not, and follow the results of this assessment. Few things we will ever encounter in our lives need to be perfect. If the thing you have to do doesn’t actually need to be perfect, then try and get started with your best effort and accept that it will be good enough.

An example would be allowing yourself to stop writing a paper after it has reached a point of "good enough" rather than rereading it a dozen times to perfect it.

Worrying About Results

Another source of procrastination is worrying about what will happen after the event or work is completed. Sometimes we remain in a state of inaction as a way to avoid the results. The most important strategy in this situation is remembering that for most things, the results will come whether you avoid and procrastinate or not. Many people find it helpful to simply get started on something and get the news. The longer we put off potentially stressful results, the longer we have to live in a state of uncertainty and waiting, which is a huge source of anxiety itself.

Low Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is your belief in your ability to do something. Many times people procrastinate because they fear that they cannot do something well or because they do not know where to begin. Sometimes there is a reality that we are unable to perform well, and accepting that limitation or seeking help are important processes to begin if that is true. The key to accurately assessing our ability is to look back on similar things we have done and the results.

If results are generally good, then use that knowledge as a source of strength to get started on the project. Additionally, if you struggle with finding out where to begin, often, simply beginning anywhere -- even with the easiest task -- is to get the ball rolling.


Mayo Clinic. Generalized Anxiety Disorder.