Intuition vs Anxiety

Intuition VS Anxiety: 7 Major Differences You Need To Know

Writen By: Sana Ihsan
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: December 25, 2023

Ever felt like you’re caught in a tug-of-war between what your gut tells you and those pesky worries that won’t quiet down? Welcome to the world of “Intuition vs Anxiety.” It’s like having two voices in your head, both trying to steer you in different directions. But don’t worry; figuring this out isn’t as tricky as it seems.

When it comes to making decisions, understanding the difference between anxiety and intuition is the key. Intuition, a quiet guide, offers deep insights, while anxiety brings doubt and unease. Is it intuition leading to confidence or anxiety urging caution in your decisions? Reflect on your experiences—moments when intuition brought positive outcomes and instances when anxiety clouded your judgment. Share your insights on navigating the interplay of intuition and anxiety in decision-making.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about intuition vs. anxiety, uncovering their intricate relationship and how they influence our decisions. Let’s explore the differences between gut feelings and anxiety, asking a key question: Is it really intuition guiding us, or is anxiety shaping our choices? Join the discussion as we navigate the balance between these forces, sharing moments when gut feelings led to good decisions and times when anxiety made things unclear. Together, we’ll understand how to distinguish between these feelings in the intricate play of intuition and anxiety.

What is Intuition?

Intuition is a subtle yet powerful aspect of the human thought process, often described as the ability to understand or know something instinctively without the need for conscious reasoning. It manifests through various signs, such as sudden insights, a deep sense of certainty, or an unexplainable feeling that guides decision-making. 

Intuition is like your inner guide—it’s that feeling when you just know something without really thinking about it. Picture those moments when an idea pops into your head out of nowhere, or you feel super sure about a choice without knowing why. That’s your intuition at work.

According to a 2018 study, intuition and wisdom make great leaders in addition to technical skills. While schools focus on hard science, leaders often face messy decisions with incomplete information. So, remember, your sixth sense can be a powerful tool, even in the world of tech.

This 2008 study dives into the world of “gut feelings” in professional workplaces. They define intuition as quick, unexpected decisions made without conscious analysis or rules. Intuition can also be recognized in gut feelings, an inexplicable knowing, or a heightened awareness of a situation. 

Have you ever wondered, “What is intuition in psychology?”. In psychology, intuition is the spontaneous and immediate grasp of knowledge without conscious reasoning but sometimes conscious reasoning may be important to make better decisions.

According to this 2012 study, relying heavily on intuition or “gut feelings” (experiential reasoning) is linked to increased paranoia, while using more analytical and logical thinking (rational reasoning) is associated with lower levels of paranoid thoughts. It emphasizes that both intuition and careful analysis play a role in shaping paranoid beliefs and focusing on one over the other can be detrimental.

This 2020 research further suggests that the impact of stress on our “gut feelings” depends on our individual ability to regulate emotions. Under extreme stress, people with low emotion regulation skills (or “low ERA”) have worse intuition, whereas people with high ERA actually see an improvement in their intuition. In contrast, when stress levels are low, low ERA people shine with better intuition, and high ERA people stumble. So, your emotional resilience plays a big role in how stress affects your “sixth sense.”

Signs of Intuition

The following are some of the common signs of intuition:

  1. Trusting your instincts or having a strong feeling about something without clear evidence.
  1. Sudden flashes of understanding or insights that seem to come out of nowhere are usually your intuitions, which guide you in that specific situation.
  1. Being in tune with your own emotions and easily sensing the emotions of others are signs to look out for to follow your intuition.
  1. Making choices that feel right, even if you can’t explain them logically.
  1. Empathy in intuition means sensing and understanding the unspoken emotions of others, allowing you to read between the lines and make insightful decisions.
  1. Enjoying abstract ideas and thinking outside the box, finding meaning in various situations.
  1. Dreams that feel significant or provide insights into your thoughts and emotions.
  1. Making decisions by listening to your inner feelings or natural instincts.
  1. Being open to different viewpoints and willing to challenge your own beliefs.
  1. Finding significance in seemingly random events or coincidences.

How Does Intuition Works?

Intuition usually works in the following ways:

According to a 2009 study, when you are feeling good, trusting your intuition, or “gut feeling,” can help you interpret seemingly random events with greater significance. So, a good mood can boost your “sixth sense” to see personal significance in the world around you and contribute to a more meaningful life experience.

  1. Intuition helps you make speedy decisions without getting stuck in overthinking.
  2. Ever felt a strong vibe in your stomach leading the way? That’s your intuition working its magic.
  3. It’s like having the superpower to get what’s going on without a single word being said.
  4. Intuition is a pro at connecting the dots and spotting patterns, even the not-so-obvious ones.
  5. It brings up what you already know deep inside, even if you’re not actively thinking about it.
  6. Intuition sparks creativity, helping you think up awesome and one-of-a-kind ideas.
  7. Instead of taking forever to decide, intuition gives you a fast and strong feeling about what’s good or not so good.
  8. When you trust your intuition, it becomes like a dependable friend, guiding you to choices that just feel right.
  9. Your intuition is like a GPS linked to your emotions, making choices that feel just right in your heart.
  10. Intuition often delivers sudden “aha” moments, where the right idea or solution pops into your mind seemingly out of nowhere, providing insights that surprise even yourself.

This 2022 study looked at how students at Purdue University use their “gut feeling” in different ways. They found that girls and boys often rely on it differently, and sometimes your major or background can play a role too. Knowing how these “inner voices” work can help teachers and advisors guide students to make even better choices.

Examples of Intuitive Experiences 

The following are some examples of positive intuitive experiences to give you a better understanding of what intuition truly is:

  • You walk into a party, and there’s someone you’ve never met. Your gut feeling immediately tells you they’re friendly. As you chat, you realize your intuition was right—they turn out to be an amazing new friend.
  • Standing at a crossroads in the park, you have two paths to pick from. Even though both look nice, one feels more inviting. Trusting your gut, you take that path and stumble upon a beautiful hidden garden, confirming that your intuition led you to a wonderful discovery.
  • Your phone rings, and you have a strong feeling it’s good news. You answer with excitement, and indeed, it’s a surprise call from a friend inviting you to an event you’ve been longing to attend. Your intuition gave you a positive heads-up.
  • You’re in a new town and need to pick a place to eat. Passing by a cozy-looking cafe, your intuition says, “This is the one.” You decide to give it a try, and it turns out to be your new favorite spot, serving delicious food and welcoming vibes.
  • Going for a job interview, you step into the office and instantly feel positive energy. Your intuition gives you a boost of confidence, telling you this is the right place. As the interview unfolds, you connect well with the team, and it turns out to be a perfect fit for both you and the company.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a complex emotional state characterized by persistent worry, fear, or unease. It often involves heightened anticipation of future uncertainties, leading to physiological and psychological tension.

This 2013 research suggests that anxiety significantly impacts our brain’s decision-making processes, especially when facing potentially negative outcomes.

This 2021 study further suggests that stress impacts risk-taking differently for people with high and low social anxiety.  For those with low anxiety, stress makes them take more risks and earn more money.  For people with high anxiety, stress didn’t change their cautious behavior; they stayed risk-averse.

In the mix of anxiety vs intuition, anxiety is a strong emotional state with a lot of worry and fear, overshadowing our natural gut feelings. When making decisions, it’s important to tell if it’s your real gut feeling guiding you or just anxiety causing doubts. Anxiety can make us feel uneasy and stop us from confidently choosing what feels right.

Signs of Anxiety 

The following are some of the common signs of anxiety: 

  • If your mind won’t give you a break, looping through worries about anything and everything, it might be anxiety taking the stage.
  • Experiencing sudden mood swings or emotional ups and downs without a clear cause may signal the influence of anxiety.
  • If you find yourself dodging social events due to a fear that doesn’t quite add up, it might be anxiety pulling the strings.
  • Physical symptoms like shaky hands, racing heart, tense muscles, headaches, or a foggy mind could be signals of anxiety.
  • Feeling scared about stuff that doesn’t really make sense and always questioning yourself with no clear reason? That’s anxiety messing with your thoughts, making you worry about things that might not be worth the stress.
  • If your mind won’t settle down, causing you to toss and turn, anxiety might be the culprit keeping you awake.

Types of Anxiety

Anxiety comes in different types, such as: 

  • Generalized Anxiety, where you worry a lot without a clear reason. 
  • Social Anxiety, which makes social situations scary.
  • Panic Disorder brings sudden, strong fears. 
  • Separation Anxiety Distress upon separation from a caregiver or familiar surroundings and 
  • Specific Phobias are about an intense, irrational fear of a particular object, situation, or activity. or being in crowded places (Agoraphobia). 

So, anxiety shows up in various forms, affecting people in different ways.

Examples of Anxiety

The following are some of the common and everyday life examples of anxiety:

  • Feeling nervous or uneasy when using public transportation, especially in crowded or enclosed spaces.
  • Experiencing heightened stress, nervousness, and self-doubt before and during job interviews, potentially impacting performance.
  • Constantly worrying about the status of personal relationships, fearing rejection or abandonment.
  • Feeling nervous or avoiding phone calls, whether personal or professional, due to social apprehension or fear of communication.
  • Experiencing intense nervousness and fear before or during public speaking engagements, impacting effective communication.

Similarities between anxiety and intuition 

The following are some of the key similarities between anxiety and intuition: 

  • Both influence our perception of situations and decisions.
  • They involve a delicate interplay of thoughts and emotions.
  • Recognizing their signals often requires mindful attention.
  • Balancing them is essential for achieving mental equilibrium.
  • Both can offer valuable insights beyond explicit reasoning.
  • Self-awareness is a key factor in understanding and managing both.
  • Both involve subtle feelings and sensations within.
  • They can significantly impact decision-making processes.
  • Emotional responses play a crucial role in both states.
  • Physical manifestations, such as gut feelings, may occur.
  • Recognizing their presence requires heightened self-awareness.
  • Balancing and managing these aspects contribute to overall well-being.

Intuition vs Anxiety: Key Differences

The following are some of the key differences between anxiety and intuition:

  1. Ease vs Overwhelm

Intuition is like a hint—a calm feeling that everything’s okay. On the flip side, anxiety is a bit like a mind alarm going off—thoughts rush around urgently and won’t give you a break. It’s like having a buzzing worry in your head.

  1. Wisdom vs What if

Imagine your inner wisdom as a quiet guide, a clear sense of what to do without many questions. On the flip side, when anxiety kicks in, it’s like your mind playing 20 questions, often starting with “what if?” It tends to hover around potential negative outcomes, creating a mental buzz that’s hard to get rid of.

This 2022 study says leaders facing complex problems need more than just spreadsheets. Intuition, or “gut feeling,” is key to deeper understanding and making smart choices. 

  1. Body Signals: Calm vs Anxious 

Imagine intuition as a slow, grounded response that keeps your body at ease, free from any fight-or-flight triggers. Now, when anxiety takes center stage, it’s like your body hits the panic button. The fight-or-flight response kicks in, bringing a surge of physical symptoms—maybe that jittery feeling, a racing heart, or tense muscles—as if your body is reacting to an invisible threat.

  1. Trusting Yourself Vs Overthinking 

Picture your intuition as a confidence booster, radiating calmness and a clear sense of what you want or need. Now, when anxiety takes the stage, it’s like a spotlight on self-consciousness and uncertainty. You might find yourself seeking advice and questioning your decisions repeatedly.

  1. Today’s Intuition vs Tomorrow’s Anxiety 

Picture intuition as a constant companion in the present, a clear and current feeling that keeps you grounded. On the flip side, when anxiety takes the wheel, it usually re-visits past experiences or fast-forwards to potential disasters. It’s like imagining worst-case scenarios that may never happen, but your mind is caught up in a time loop of worry.

  1. Intuition vs Anxiety Origin 

Imagine intuition as a friendly visitor, coming to you from a deeper, wiser place or even your soul. Now, when anxiety takes the stage, thoughts often feel like they’re coming from within, even if they’re tough to ignore. It’s like having an internal conversation that’s hard to quiet down.

  1. Social Harmony: Intuition vs Anxiety 

Intuition acts like a chill vibe in social scenes, providing a natural sense of ease and understanding. It’s this feeling of knowing what feels right without overthinking that makes interactions smoother and more enjoyable. On the flip side, when anxiety comes into play, the interactions turn a bit awkward, and overthinking adds discomfort to the mix. The once-easy flow gets challenged, and the relaxed vibe takes a back seat to unease.

How Do I Know If It’s Anxiety or Intuition? 

If you are someone who is struggling with their feelings and want to understand that whatever you are going through right now is intuition or anxiety, then you definitely need to find a connection to your inner soul. To figure out the difference between intuition vs anxiety, you need to understand what your own mind and body are telling you. If you are experiencing physical symptoms like headaches, tense muscles, overthinking, sleepless nights, a racing heart, and many more like these you need to understand and accept the fact that these are the signs of anxiety. The next step after this should be finding ways to manage these symptoms.

This 2017 study investigates the impact of anxiety on intuition. It finds that people in an anxious state have impaired intuitive decision-making compared to those in positive or neutral states.

If you want to connect to your inner instinct and gut feelings without the influence of anxiety over your gut feelings, it’s very important to treat your anxiety first. Getting help for treating your anxiety can be very beneficial for you, as it will help you reach a calm and peaceful state of mind, which will help you connect to your intuition and understand it in a much better manner. 

Recognizing whether it’s intuition or anxiety should not be a challenging task for you but if you feel like it is one, then reflect several times on your own thoughts and behavioral patterns, understand the source of these thoughts, and try to challenge them with logical counter questions. For further clarity, you can also write down your thoughts, as it will help you become more self-aware.

Intuition vs Anxiety: Ask Questions From Yourself

  1. What physical signals does my body send?
  2. Does this feeling come from a calm and peaceful place?
  3. How have past emotions shaped my view of this? Take a moment to understand your emotions before coming to a conclusion.
  4. Is this feeling more like a quiet knowing or a buzzing worry?
  5. Can I easily explain this feeling to someone else, or does it seem confusing when I try?

It is Intuition if You Have

  1. Strong, peaceful feeling
  2. Trust in your decisions 
  3. A clear understanding of what needs to be done
  4. Feel at ease or there is no need to explain

It is Anxiety if You Have

  1. Feeling unsure or self-conscious
  2. Tightness in the chest or faster heartbeat
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Restlessness
  5. Constant worrying
  6. Trouble expressing feelings may sound overwhelming.

Try different ways, stick with what feels real to you, and remember that understanding yourself is really important in telling the difference between these two feelings.

Overcoming Anxiety-Driven Decisions

Maintaining the delicate balance between intuition and anxiety is crucial for making sound decisions. When anxiety takes the lead, decision-making can be clouded by fear and uncertainty. Here’s a guide to overcoming anxiety-based decisions and learning to trust your intuition:

  1. Recognize the Patterns

Understand the distinct patterns of intuition vs anxiety. Anxiety often leads to repetitive cycles of doubt, while intuition consistently guides you toward a sense of confidence and alignment.

  1. Mindful Awareness

Practise mindfulness to stay present and observe your thoughts and feelings. Acknowledge the presence of anxiety, allowing you to disentangle it from your intuitive insights.

  1. Reflective Pause

Before making decisions, especially during moments of anxiety, take a reflective pause. Allow yourself the space to assess whether your choice aligns with your deeper instincts or is driven by anxious thoughts.

  1. Physical Check-In

Tune into your body. Anxiety might manifest as tension, while intuition often comes with a calm, reassuring feeling. Pay attention to these physical signals as indicators of your mental state.

How to Trust Your Intuition When You Are Having Anxiety

According to this 2023 study, engineering technology students tend to rely on “educated guessing” and intuition more than analytical methods when solving problems, especially under pressure or facing unfamiliar situations. While they prefer logic, their gut feelings often take over in real-world scenarios. This information can help educators understand and better cater to this specific learning style.

This 2023 says “gut feelings” can help, especially when you’re anxious! If you’re nervous about your career, listen to your inner voice; it might be best. But when you’re calm, ask your friends or family for advice. And if you’re really stressed, find someone you trust who isn’t close to the situation to guide you. So, don’t ignore your “sixth sense.” Just choose who you listen to based on your mood.

Trusting your intuition amidst anxiety requires intentional steps to discern the authentic guiding force within. Consider these strategies:

  1. Validate Emotions

Acknowledge and validate your feelings of anxiety without judgment. This awareness sets the stage for separating anxious thoughts from genuine intuitive insights.

  1. Explore Root Causes

Understand the source of your anxiety. Sometimes, addressing the underlying causes can alleviate anxious feelings, allowing your intuition to surface more clearly.

  1. Cultivate Self-Trust

Build a foundation of self-trust by recalling past instances where your intuition led to positive outcomes. Remind yourself that your instincts are a valuable guide, even in the face of anxiety.

  1. Consult Trusted Advisors

Seek input from trusted friends, family, or mentors. External perspectives can provide valuable insights, helping you distinguish between anxiety-driven fears and genuine intuitive signals.

By actively engaging with these strategies, you empower yourself to overcome anxiety-driven decisions and foster a deeper connection with your intuition in various aspects of life.

Simplified Steps to Distinguish Intuition from Anxiety

The following are some steps that can help you find the difference:

  1. Breathe Deeply

Start with slow, deep breaths to calm yourself.

  1. Check Your Feelings

Notice if you feel calmly assured (intuition) or restless and fearful (anxiety). Check your feelings and ask yourself Is it intuition or anxiety that is dominating your thoughts?

  1. Think Now, Not Later

Consider if your feelings are about the present or worries about the future.

  1. Picture Different Outcomes

Imagine different scenarios related to your decision; notice which ones feel right (intuition) or cause stress (anxiety).

  1. Feel Your Body

Pay attention to how your body feels. Intuition might bring a positive vibe, while anxiety often feels tense.

  1. Ask a Neutral Friend

Get advice from a friend without pushing them toward intuition or anxiety. A fresh perspective can be helpful.

  1. Think About Past Experiences

Remember times when trusting your instincts led to good outcomes and when anxiety hindered your decisions

  1. Check Your Energy

Assess whether your decision-making energizes you (intuition) or drains you (anxiety). If you ever wonder whether it is a gut feeling or anxiety, always trust your instincts in such cases.

  1. Values and Goals

Consider if your decision aligns with your values and long-term goals, as intuition often guides choices that resonate with your true self.

  1. Write it Down

Journal your thoughts by answering a prompt like, “What’s driving this decision?” Writing helps clarify your feelings.

By following these simple steps, you can better tell whether it is a gut feeling or anxiety vs intuition, leading to more confident and authentic decisions.

How to Strengthen Intuitive Abilities?

The following exercises can help you strengthen your intuitive abilities: 

  1. Mindful Meditation

Engage in mindfulness meditation to quiet the mind and enhance your ability to tune into subtle intuitive signals, distinguishing them from anxiety-driven thoughts.

  1. Body Awareness Practices

Cultivate body awareness through practices like yoga or Tai Chi. This helps you connect with the physical sensations associated with intuition and differentiate them from anxiety-related tension.

  1. Journaling Insights

Dedicate time to journaling about your experiences and decisions. Reflect on the outcomes, identifying patterns that clarify the role of intuition vs anxiety in your choices.

  1. Visualisation Techniques

Practice guided visualization to envision positive scenarios. This enhances your ability to tap into optimistic, intuitive feelings and counteracts anxiety-driven negative visualizations.

  1. Nature Connection

Spend time in nature to foster a connection with your surroundings. Nature can calm anxiety and promote a receptive state for intuitive insights.

  1. Creative Expression

Engage in creative activities like drawing, painting, or writing. The creative expression often taps into intuitive realms, providing a channel for insights to surface.

  1. Trust-Building Exercises

Develop trust in your intuition through exercises. Start with small decisions and reflect on the outcomes. Gradually, this builds confidence in your intuitive capabilities.

  1. Find Hidden Meanings

Check out symbols in dreams or everyday things. They might connect with how your gut feelings talk to you.

  1. Energy Awareness Practices

Learn to sense and manage your energy through practices like Reiki or Qi Gong. Heightened energy awareness can aid in distinguishing intuitive vibes from anxiety-induced restlessness.

Self-Help Books

The following are some books that can help you end your confusion related to intuition vs anxiety.

  1. Trust Your Intuition by Jill Sylvester

Jill Sylvester’s book advocates embracing intuition, fostering self-trust, and navigating life with confidence.

  1. Anxiety or Intuition by Anchita Sakhuja

Anchita Sakhuja explores the distinction between anxiety and intuition, offering insights for making mindful decisions.

  1. Trust Your Intuition: Ways to Transform Anxiety and Depression by Stanley Beach

Stanley Beach’s book delves into transforming anxiety and depression through intuitive practices, fostering mental well-being.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the interplay of intuition vs anxiety is a nuanced journey of self-discovery. Recognizing the subtleties—intuition or anxiety, —is vital for sound decision-making. Balancing both aspects and acknowledging the difference between anxiety and intuition, fosters a comprehensive approach. It’s not about dismissing anxiety but integrating both for resilient decision-making. Balancing intuition and anxiety is key to well-being, turning their contrast into a source of strength.

Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQs) 

The following are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about intuition vs anxiety.

1. How to tell the difference between intuition and overthinking?

If making a choice feels calm and easy, it’s probably your gut feeling. But if your mind is stuck on worries and endless “what if” thoughts, that’s overthinking. The following examples will make it further clear for you:

  • Choosing what to wear—if one outfit just feels right, that’s intuition. If you keep changing because you worry about what others might think, that’s overthinking.
  • If leaving a party or gathering feels like the right time, that’s intuition. But if you stay longer, worrying about what others will think if you leave early, that’s overthinking.
  • If a gift idea instantly clicks and feels thoughtful, that’s intuition. But if you keep second-guessing, worried it might not be perfect, and spend too much time deciding, that’s overthinking.

2. How do I know if it’s intuition or insecurity?

Intuition is a calm inner knowing, while insecurity often triggers doubt and fear. Pay attention to whether your feelings stem from a grounded sense or unfounded fears.

3. Can anxiety mess up your intuition?

Absolutely. Anxiety can mess up how your gut talks to you. So, keeping anxiety in check is crucial for a clear signal from your gut when making decisions. According to this 2017 research study, when we feel anxious, our “gut feeling” weakens. This study shows anxiety disrupts quick, unconscious decision-making by hindering our natural ability to pick up on hidden connections in the world around us.

4. Is your gut feeling always right?

While gut feelings can be insightful, they aren’t infallible. Consider the context and external factors for a more accurate assessment. According to this 2023 study, our gut feeling, or intuition, is constantly learning and changing based on what we see, hear, and experience online and in the real world. This research says we need to think carefully about how these experiences, especially with technology, affect our gut feelings because they can be both helpful and misleading.

5. How can I test my intuition?

Test it by making small predictions or decisions based on your gut feelings. Reflect on the outcomes to refine your understanding of your intuitive signals.

6. When should you not trust your intuition?

This 2016 study suggests that when stressed, our brain flips from slow, careful thinking to quick gut feelings based on emotions. If you’re feeling really emotional or stressed out, it’s good to take a breather. Stress can play tricks on your gut feelings. And if what your gut says doesn’t match up with what you know is true, maybe give it a second thought. 

7. Is my gut causing my anxiety?

Absolutely, our gut feelings can definitely play a role in causing anxiety. Sometimes, those instinctual sensations can trigger worry or apprehension, leading to feelings of anxiety. It’s important to listen to these gut feelings but also explore their roots to better understand and manage the anxiety they might provoke. Understanding this connection can be a crucial step toward finding ways to address and ease those anxious moments. 

8. Do people with anxiety have good intuition?

Anxiety doesn’t necessarily correlate with good intuition. Managing anxiety can help individuals access clearer intuitive insights.

9. What weakens intuition?

Stress, fear, and emotional clutter can weaken intuition. Creating a calm, mindful space strengthens intuitive connections.

These brief insights provide a foundation for understanding the interplay between intuition vs anxiety, emotions, and cognitive processes.