Ladder anxiety (A comprehensive guide)

What is Ladder anxiety?

Ladder anxiety is the given name to the anxious mental state that some players experience while playing ranked games.

Ladder anxiety will affect the way someone plays in game due to your fear of losing.

In this brief guide, we will discuss what ladder anxiety is, why gamers have it, what causes Ladder anxiety and how it is treated.

We will cover the topic of ladder anxiety and it will help you understand how to notice the first signs so you can react on time.

After reading this guide, you’ll be able to understand why it’s important to take ladder anxiety seriously and what are the consequences if you disregard it.

What is ladder anxiety? 

Ladder anxiety is the subcategory of anxiety that a person who plays games gets before they play ranked.

A lot of newer players suffer from ladder anxiety, and the “disorder” is usually marked by feelings of anxiety, anger, fear..

The new era brought many changes and technology novelties. One of the most popular changes are definitely games.

Millions of people are spending hours playing and competing with each other or working as a team.

Even tho it started as a fun, gaming industry is now worth billions of dollars and E-sport competitions are getting bigger and bigger every year. 

In 2019, on one of the biggest cs go tournaments, Katowice Major 2019 , fans all over the world spent  53 240 709 of hours watching tournament.

So taking this is calculation you can imagine how big pressure can get and why ladder anxiety grabs you. 

Ladder anxiety can happen to anyone who plays competitive games or any game that has something similar, team games are definitely included.

In the beginning, it’s fun but after players start investing time and money fear of losing kicks in and it can get pretty rough.

Some players might not feel it at all, and anxiety won’t be noticeable. For less fortunate, it’s a completely different story.

Fear of disappointing their teammates and themselves can be overwhelming. Something that started as fun can become a burden they carry. 

The good news is, there is a way to fight ladder anxiety and make games fun again. 

Signs of ladder anxiety 

As the name suggests ladder anxiety is pretty similar to general anxiety. 

Symptoms can be physiological or psychological. We’ll name a few of each:  

  • Neurological, as headache or vertigo. 

Anxiety is associated with the psychological condition but it can have an impact on our body like often headaches or vertigo.

In ladder anxiety, it will usually manifest before playing a game or when you are thinking or planning to play competitive mode.

In case you lost a game or made a mistake, headaches, and vertigo can occur once when the game is over. 

  • Digestive problems, as abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea, indigestion, dry mouth

Just as in general anxiety, people who suffer from ladder anxiety can get digestive problems that will occur, like neurological problems, just before the game and in some cases after. 

One of the signs is visiting toilet one too many times, feeling of nausea that is not related to eating the wrong food.

Good thing is, once you bring this to consciousness these problems will get easier since they’ll know the cause. 

  • Respiratory, as shortness of breath or sighing breathing.

Once you entered the game shortness of breath might appear.

Usually just before deciding moments.

People might feel like there is no enough air in the room or like they are choking and they start panicking, but there is no real threat.

Besides psychosomatic problems, people usually experience psychological symptoms.

Psychological symptoms

The emotional effects of anxiety may include feelings of apprehension or dread, trouble concentrating, feeling tense or jumpy, anticipating the worst, irritability, restlessness, watching (and waiting) for signs (and occurrences) of danger, and, feeling like your mind’s gone blank” as well as “nightmares/bad dreams, obsessions about sensations, déjà vu, a trapped-in-your-mind feeling, and feeling like everything is scary.  

Causes of ladder anxiety

Laddery anxiety is caused by fear of losing, but the thing is it much more complicated.

It manifests in our consciousness as fear of losing, but the root of the problem lays in “maintaining a picture of ourselves as it is”.

We like to think about ourselves as capable, smart, talented. 

Losing, especially in the game gamer likes, can shake that belief and it is not pleasant.

This is not the case only with ladder anxiety, it’s also very common in with everyday fears.

Another important thing, that is strongly related to “maintaining a picture of ourselves to ourselves” is the “positive opinion of others”. 

Especially when gamers are playing with their friends, they want to feel accepted and appreciated for their skills, but losing and making mistakes can make gamers feel insecure or unneeded. 

Playing video games requires intelligence, skills and usually analytical thinking, but when someone loss a game, and it happens to everyone, it doesn’t mean they are unintelligent or unskilled.

It’s important to have a strong opinion on who they are and what defines them, so they won’t go awry every time something unplanned happens. 

How stressful games might be, depends on their personality and how they cope with stress.

When it comes to ladder anxiety and gamers, the biggest stressor is the idea that they won’t be able to play rank they want and that usually leads to losing a motivation to play at all. 

If a game is stressful it can lead to frustration and it can cause bad habits in the game, often referred to as “tilting.”

This leads to more losses, which leads to more frustration. Even if they win games, the losses will be more salient in their mind because they still haven’t managed to achieve what they worked for the entire time – next rank.

People tend to remember negative things more easily than positive ones, which can be directly related to winning or losing in video games.

As we mentioned, games can be important for multiple reasons, one is getting demoted if you lose, but the other one is harder to explain, and that is getting promoted or going to the next level.

This can be explained by the fact that rank represents your skill, and not getting the rank means you are not as skilled as you believed. 

Regardless of why the game is important, adjusting your mindset and thought the process is crucial to overcoming ladder anxiety or it’s first symptoms. 

The key to getting to the right mindset is in differentiating their “I” and their alter ego in-game. 

Having a good, healthy mindset about losses (and the game in general) is the best way to enjoy playing for as long as possible.

Losing isn’t always negative, which is something important that you should always keep in mind.

Even the best players in the world don’t have a 100% win rate, so gamer need to accept that win rate will vary.

Although gamers can learn from games that they won, it’s more common to learn more from games that they lost, and learning will help them improve.

What every gamer should keep in mind:

  1. Your skills are not the same represented by your rank in-game 
  2. Losing the game doesn’t mean a lack of intelligence
  3. Everybody loses sometimes 
  4. Winning the game will bring you happiness only for the short amount of time
  5. Many factors have a role in the outcome of the game

Remembering and repeating these things will help them work their way up, and establishing the right mindset. 

How to recover from ladder anxiety

Reasons to take the first steps

Someone might wonder why would you even take the first step to recover the anxiety.

To highlight the importance of taking the first step, we need to look at the aftermath of a long term ladder anxiety.

Long-term ladder anxiety can cause your brain to release stress hormones (Adrenaline, Cortisol, Norepinephrine) on a regular basis.

This can increase the frequency of symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and depression

If untreated, continued anxiety can lead to thyroid problems, heart disease or irregular blood pressure.

How to take the first steps?

For taking the first step most common advice gammers get is “stop caring about the video game”.

And it usually is much easier to say than is to understand and apply in actions, and you shouldn’t.

Anxiety is normal every day feeling that tends to get stronger and overwhelm us but it doesn’t mean we should stop caring about every stressful activity or part of life, for eg., you shouldn’t stop dating just because you feel anxious before date or meeting with someone.

The first step is admitting of overcoming ladder anxiety 

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery with any problems, and it’s the same case with ladder anxiety. 

Once you are aware of having a problem, you can attribute your emotions to the right cause.

Causes will vary from the stages of your recovery. 

The first cause of your ladder anxiety you will be able to see is the game itself.

The moment you start feeling the symptoms you need to understand the reason for is – game, and there is no real danger to you or your health.

The outcome of the game won’t affect your life, your body or your soul. 

The outcome doesn’t represent you or your skills as we mentioned before.

The second thing gamer need to get to the next stage is to understand  “why do they even care about the game?

There can be several reasons why would someone care. We’ll name a few of them.

  1. They are competitive.

Everyday activities does not allow us to express our need for competition and showing dominance.

When you are in school you have a teacher that is your superior and he sets the rules and ideas if you are working you have a boss or manager that you and your salary are depending on.

So there is no much room for competing, and showing off your skill.

With video games, you get the chance to defeat others, set your own rules and be in charge and completely independent.

That is an addictive feeling and it will “awake animal in you” that social norms concurred.

But, when it takes over and anxiety hits in your competitiveness needs to find other ways to manifest.

You can play sports like basketball or football, go to the gym, or challenge yourself to read more.  

One of the hardest things is to compete against yourself and once you do you’ll become the best version of yourself. 

  1. They care about their friends and how they feel about them

It’s more than normal to care about your friends and their recognition.

If gamer comes to realize it’s one of the causes that they care about the game, they can find other area where gamers can gain recognition and respect.

For example, they can be there for them, help them out, do things they like besides gaming (but keep it moderate), or improve your self.

  1. You have too much free time on your hands

If someone just graduated or they are in between jobs, there is a chance they might have too much free time on their hands or nothing to do during the day except playing games.

When someone finds themself in a situation like this they can start taking games way too seriously because for them it is not just the “game”, games fulfill them and make their day complete, and video game is the only source of happiness in life.

We mentioned only a few of the reasons why you might care, but the real reason is laying in each person and they need to figure it out.

Once you are aware of the main cause they can jump in treating it and making your life easier. 

Fighting the anxiety 

  • Dealing with symptoms 

There are several ways to start fighting your anxiety.

There’s a difference between working on relieving the symptoms and working on attacking the reasons for fear at their core – and both are important.

Doing something to relieve the symptoms might not seem like a good way to address the anxiety, and you might be asking yourself how that’d be helpful to you at all.

The symptoms and signs your body shows when you start to fear something are things that you notice, and it will only further increase your fear.

For example, if you get cold hands once you start the game, you are aware of the fact that you are fearing something right now.

It’ll be always in the back of your head, and every time something goes badly for you in a game, you’ll be reminded of the symptom, and therefore directly of the fear.

If you tend to get cold hands and feet as a sign of your anxiety, make sure to wear warm clothes, heat up your room, or use hand-warming gel packs.

If you find yourself breathing quickly, force yourself to take slow and deep breaths.

A reminder, like a note on your screen near the corner of your minimap, would be a good start (if you actually remember to look at your minimap, that is).

Another effective way to start the fight against your fear is having a method to distract yourself from it – something like a rubber band on your arm that you flick once you get the feeling that your fear is starting to grow.

Whenever you find yourself thinking stuff like “Oh god, this is going horribly” or “man, we are losing again, this is hopeless,” flick the rubber band to distract you from these thoughts.

Although these steps do not directly help you to solve your anxiety, they are ways to prevent your fear from becoming stronger.

Dealing with anxiety itself

Dealing with anxiety isn’t an easy, few-step process – it’s a fight.

There isn’t a “do this and you’ll be fine” solution, but rather, there are many small things you need to do to fight against the anxiety.

I’ll go over some of these things, but keep in mind that not everything might work for everyone, as human psychology is complex.

The ways to work on anxiety are not only things someone can actively do or not do, but also your mindset they have before, while, and after playing the game.

They have to make sure that they are calm and collected before starting a game. 

Some therapists suggest that it would be helpful to make yourself a cup of tea and try to stay away from too much caffeine.

Caffeine causes you to be more sensitive to stress, and that’s the last thing you want. Everyone has a different way to reduce stress.

While some might listen to their favorite music, others might take a warm bath or shower.

Getting some fresh air and taking your thoughts off the game is generally a good idea.

The right way depends entirely on gamer  and it’s highly suggested they find something that works for them when  they are stressed about the game.

Forcing someone to keep playing is usually the worst idea because it’ll make you more and more stressed.

Preventing anxiety from happening again

There are several ways to help prevent anxiety from occurring in the future.

While playing,  gamers should always keep focusing on their next steps, rather than thinking back about what went wrong.

Focus in general is really important – the more you concentrate on the game, the less time you have to think about misplays.

 Playing a more casual mode once in a while can also help them lighten their mood again. 

While they are still playing the game, gamers don’t need the drive to try as hard as possible, and they can keep enjoying the game more.

This can bring back motivation to play competitively again.


Ladder anxiety is a subcategory of anxiety and they have many similarities. It can be treated efficiently, and you can see results in no time.

An important part of defeating your ladder anxiety is understanding it’s causes and experiences behind them. 

If left untreated, anxiety can lead to health problems, so we need to take it seriously. 


How long does it take to overcome ladder anxiety?

Overcoming ladder anxiety depends on a person’s mental health and how eager are you to resolve your issues.

You can expect to feel better in the first week, but it usually takes around 2 months to get rid of the symptoms.

Should I ask for professional help?

You should ask for professional help if your ladder anxiety takes more than 1h a day of your time, and if you can’t function normally you should definitely ask for a professional opinion

What is the difference between anxiety and ladder anxiety?

Difference between anxiety and ladder anxiety is that ladder anxiety is a subcategory of anxiety, and it’s closely related to playing games, while general anxiety occurs during everyday activities. 

What age group ladder anxiety hit?

Ladder anxiety can show up at any age group, and to each individual that plays games, in competitive mode. Both kids and the elderly can have it. 

Should I stop playing games if I have ladder anxiety? 

You shouldn’t stop playing games.

You can keep playing even in competitive mode, only thing is you need to understand and work on your anxiety. 

I am struggling with ladder anxiety for more than a year. What should I do?

If you have consistent symptoms for more than a year you should ask for the professional opinion that will definitely help you.

Self-help books and understanding your body can be useful.


Tempostorm-Ladder anxiety

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