Chances are you may have come across the word ‘imposter syndrome’ on social media. People are talking about it and emphasising on normalising conversations around it.
So, to understand the syndrome better, we got in touch with Dr Sonal Anand, Psychiatrist, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai to help us know how it affects our mental health and how to overcome it.
What is imposter syndrome?
To start with, it’s not a mental disorder. It is experiencing feelings of inadequacy and self doubt despite putting in the effort and having adequate talent. Dr Anand explains, “Someone who suffers from imposter syndrome feels as if he/she has not done a good job despite getting good results, and has a constant fear that their inadequacy will be exposed and revealed to the world.”
Here’s how it affects mental health
It is not uncommon to go through such feelings once in a while. Dr Anand says, “Also known as impostorism, fraud syndrome or impostor experience, it can lead to anxiety and depression if it continues. Earlier it was felt that it was more common in women. Recent surveys suggest that impostorism is found equally in men and in people from all walks of life.”
“Even though impostorism does not come under International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), having such overwhelming feelings can lead to depression and anxiety disorders,” Dr Anand adds.
It can affect final outcomes and further lower self confidence. It affects the way you think and act. Anxiety disorders can include phobias and panic attacks. Depression due to impostorism can sometimes be moderate to severe if it’s accompanied by poor social support and a negative environment.
The causes of imposter syndrome are still unknown
The exact cause is still unknown but some contributing factors have been implicated. Dr Anand elaborates, “Childhood feelings of inadequacy due to parental expectations being unfulfilled, sibling rivalry and it’s lasting impression are known to affect self awareness. Personality issues have a definite role to play in impostorism.”
Group therapy is the key
Group therapy is known to work well with people suffering from imposter syndrome, suggests Dr Anand. When such individuals meet others like them they feel relieved that they are not the only ones and seeing things from another’s perspective becomes easier.
Dr Anand explains, “It is important to break the self ruminating pattern of thinking and ask, “Are these thoughts helping me or keeping me back?” Cognitive restructuring can help deal with pessimism and self-doubt. Speaking about these problems with a teacher, friend or parent is the first step. Support from primary caregivers can help boost one’s fruitfulness. Taking the thought away before the event is something that the person has to learn to imbibe so that they can deal with such situations.”
The goal is to not let these feelings of impostorism affect life choices and milestone events. If you feel like you suffer from the imposter syndrome, let us know what helped you in the comments.