Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong with a group? Have you been afraid someone might out you as a fraud? These are textbook examples of imposter syndrome anxiety, which is something that affects many people but feels very isolating when it’s happening to you.
In this piece, we’ll explore the way imposter syndrome impacts people and why it’s often linked with other long-term mental and behavioral health issues.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Back when you were a kid, you may have looked at the adults in your life and thought, “They have all the answers.” When you grew up, though, you realized no one actually has all the answers, and life is a constant journey of learning and growing. Still, this can bring about a feeling of not belonging while everyone else around you does.
Imposter syndrome isn’t recognized as a disease in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but it’s widely recognized in psychiatric circles as a manifestation of self-doubt. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says imposter feelings frequently lead to other conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Issues like these can also result in feelings of being an imposter, so it’s important to understand what’s causing this illusion and how to cope with it.
How Anxiety and Low Confidence Make You Feel Like an Imposter
Imposter syndrome manifests itself when you’re not feeling confident about your situation. You feel anxious about being “found out,” and everything you do starts to feel like you’re faking being competent.
Starting a new job is probably the most common situation where imposter syndrome occurs. When you first enter the workforce, you’re dropped into an environment where it seems like everyone around you has it all figured out, and because you don’t, you feel like a fraud.
In fact, this is so common that many people only associate imposter syndrome with the workplace. However, it can be brought on by any circumstance that causes you to feel anxious or not good or valid enough to be where you are.
There are many situations relating to substance abuse or mental illness in which people may feel like they don’t belong. Here are some of the most common.
Imposter Syndrome and Substance Abuse
When you’re actively struggling to control your substance abuse, imposter syndrome can be a large part of your life. People who use drugs and alcohol tend to hide it from their friends and family. They often do things when they’re using that cause them shame and guilt when they’re sober.
These can foster a sense of “otherness” in a person who’s having trouble with substances. When they’re around sober people who have their lives together, they don’t feel like they fit in, but they hide it because they don’t want to be found out.
Sometimes, it leads to self-isolation as a way of avoiding the activities and groups that bring on these imposter feelings. This can prompt a cycle of abuse and worsening mental and emotional well-being over time.
Imposter Syndrome and Mental Health
People suffering with mental health issues can have a similar experience with imposter feelings. Many people struggle in silence because of the stigma that exists around mental health — it makes it harder to admit when you need help. This is one of the main reasons a gap exists between the number of people who need support and those who actually seek it.
Because they’re dealing with their own issues internally, they can’t share what they’re going through with the people around them, even if others are experiencing similar issues. Because they’re dealing with depression or anxiety, they may feel like everyone else is more prepared to deal with daily life. In most cases of imposter syndrome, this is far from the truth, but the issue will persist and worsen over time because of it.
Imposter Syndrome After Recovery
Imposter syndrome can affect people even after they get the help they need. After recovery, a person who’s sober again likely has a different mindset than others around them.
They may have missed major life experiences and the times when people build critical skills, like the ability to cook for themselves. They may be unemployed as a result of their substance abuse issues or have to rebuild their social circle. These are healthy areas of growth in sobriety, but a person in recovery may still feel they’re not in the same place as the people around them in life.
Because they have a hard time reintegrating into a healthy social routine after rehab due to imposter syndrome anxiety, they’re at higher risk of relapse and other negative circumstances.
How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome
To an extent, coping with imposter syndrome is something most people need to practice. Whether at work, at home or in social situations, everyone has the feeling of not fitting in sometimes, so they have to fake it. It’s beneficial to take a step back and consider how common these feelings are.
No one feels confident all the time, and sometimes “fake it till you make it” is an attitude that’ll result in increased confidence until the feeling of being a fraud subsides. Even though it might appear they do, no one truly has it all figured out. Often, life can be a series of trying and failing until something finally works.
If you’re in recovery, the most important thing you can do to combat imposter syndrome after treatment is to not thrust yourself back into society with no lifeline. This is one of the reasons the most effective treatment programs offer the full continuum of care in a step-down model. These programs begin with medical detox and follow up with outpatient care and alumni programming. This allows you to start building the life skills addiction robbed you of without having to feel like you’re catching up.
If you’re actively struggling with addiction or a mental health issue, coping with imposter syndrome requires help. As we discussed above, imposter feelings can occur in a cycle if you’re actively using or suffering from a mental illness. They can make it feel you’ll never be normal, leading to more destructive behavior and risks to your long-term health.
A Solution for Imposter Syndrome: Seek Professional Help
No matter what phase in life or setting you’re in — professional or otherwise — imposter syndrome can be a major drain on your ability to live a rewarding life. Feelings of inadequacy or that you’re somehow pretending you fit into a group when you don’t can keep you from truly experiencing the benefits certain activities can provide.
If you’re experiencing imposter syndrome anxiety that affects your ability to live a normal life, it’s never too late to get help. Contact us at FHE Health or call (833) 596-3502 to learn about the options available to you.