Your question: Can I be a psychologist if I have anxiety?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Anxiety is a universal experience. To a greater or lesser extent, we all feel anxiety at various times in our lives. Anxiety is necessary because it triggers an alert in our body, indicating that we must take action to avoid a potential threat. However, when anxiety becomes very intense and recurrent, it causes problems.

Chronic anxiety can generate notorious difficulties in your life, both because it triggers unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms due to its intensity and persistence, and because it affects your performance in day-to-day activities such as work, studies and interpersonal relationships.

If you are reading this you are probably wondering how you can be a psychologist if you have anxiety problems. It is a completely normal concern that is associated with the stigma and social ideas that are built up about psychologists and mental health professionals in general.

In my experience as a psychologist, I have not only seen people with various emotional discomforts, but I have dealt with emotional discomforts myself. Anxiety and depression are no stranger to people who work in psychology; in fact, studies have shown that it is common for mental health workers such as clinical psychologists to experience mental health problems at some point in their lives (1).

This is baffling to many who wonder: How can a psychologist have anxiety? This stigma is caused by the idea that psychologists should be no less than perfect, and therefore any emotional problems they have should be solved on their own.

It is like expecting a doctor to never get sick or a teacher to teach himself things he does not understand. Therefore, having anxiety is not an impediment to being a good psychologist. It is an obstacle that you must face, seeking strategies to cope with anxiety and prevent it from getting in the way of your goals. But a psychologist can have anxiety, depression and other mental health problems and help their patients effectively, as long as they attend to their own emotional problems first.

Although your concern is normal, the reality is that anxiety has no control over your life unless you allow it to. Before introducing you to some coping strategies for anxiety, it is necessary to know how anxiety can impact the work of psychology by telling you from my professional and personal experience how to cope with anxiety when working as a psychologist.

What does it feel like to have anxiety?

Psychology (2) has studied anxiety as a complex phenomenon, which has specific characteristics that affect people in different areas. Some characteristics of anxiety are:

Cognitive symptoms: fear of losing control; fear of death; fear of “going crazy”; fear of negative evaluation by others; frightening thoughts.

Physiological symptoms: increased heart rate, palpitations; shortness of breath, rapid breathing; chest pain or pressure; choking sensation; dizziness.

Affective symptoms: nervous, tense, wound up; frightened; sadness; irritability.

How does anxiety relate to the practice of psychology?

Anxiety is a phenomenon that affects us all, regardless of our race, sex, age, profession and any other variable. We are all prone to feel anxiety, since it is a phenomenon that has multiple causes and variables.

Psychology is a demanding profession for many reasons. As a university career is rigorous, you will spend a lot of time studying and doing internships necessary for your professional training, which can be very stressful.

There are many ways to practice psychology. Whether in clinical, judicial, social, school or organizational settings, psychology is stressful because we are constantly dealing with people and their emotional problems, which can affect us emotionally.

Psychologists are also human. They are not impenetrable machines devoid of feelings, therefore, they can experience anxiety, depression and any other emotional problem. This does not mean that they are bad psychologists, but that they have to work on their personal problems before they can help people in their profession.

There is no reason why your anxiety should stop you from being a good psychologist, as long as you take care to manage it and decrease its symptoms, both through coping strategies and by going to a professional when you feel the anxiety is getting out of control.

How can you be a good psychologist without anxiety getting in the way?

Some strategies that will allow you to cope with your anxiety and decrease your symptoms, in order to perform effectively as a psychologist, are:

Question your thoughts

Anxiety is largely caused by automatic thoughts that are unpredictable and dysfunctional, generating intense worry. In most cases, these thoughts are unrealistic and disconnected from reality, so you need to consciously question these problematic thoughts to alleviate the feeling of anxiety they provoke.

For example, it is likely that during your psychology career or during your professional practice you will have thoughts questioning whether you are really doing a good job. When a thought such as “you are not fit to be a psychologist” comes to mind, you should give a logical, positive internal response to that thought, such as “I am doing my best to improve every day in my profession.”

Fix your sleep schedule

This can be difficult to do, as many people with anxiety develop sleep problems that are difficult to change. However, you should aim to establish specific sleep schedules in order to decrease your overall anxiety. This can be done with the help of a professional such as a psychologist or a sleep doctor who can help you establish routines for better sleep.


Physical activity improves quality of life. Whether in a gym, practicing a sport or from the comfort of your home, exercising will be beneficial to improve your physical and emotional condition, because when you exercise you release endorphins related to the feeling of happiness and fulfillment.

Breathing and relaxation

Inhale through your nose for three seconds, exhale through your mouth for another three seconds. This while you close your eyes and feel how slowly the tension in your body decreases. You can apply this exercise for at least 10 minutes a day at different times, and just after experiencing an episode of anxiety.

Boost your self-esteem

We psychologists tend to be pretty hard on ourselves. It is important that you work on your self-esteem and learn to congratulate yourself for your accomplishments, no matter how “small” they may seem. If you had a good test result, received a positive comment from a colleague or a patient, it is something worthy of celebration and self-recognition. You can do this with words of encouragement to yourself, writing in a journal about your positive feelings about your accomplishments, or giving yourself a gift that pleases you.

In my experience…

Having anxiety is not an impediment to studying psychology and being a good psychologist. I myself have dealt with anxiety problems and have been able to continue working as a psychologist without anxiety being an impediment. I have learned that the most important thing in the practice of psychology is to prioritize yourself. If you don’t take care of your physical and emotional health, you won’t be able to give adequate care and support to your patients.

Anxiety does not have to affect your quality as a psychologist as long as you work on controlling your symptoms, regulating anxious thoughts and boosting your self-esteem. You have the control and power to make positive changes in your life. Being a psychologist requires you to observe yourself and understand where you can improve to be a better professional. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help as a psychologist, on the contrary, it speaks very well of you.

I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this medium proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health

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